Mars Rover Spots UFO…Or Does It?

After much global speculation, NASA has at last put out an official statement regarding the true identity of the ‘white spot’ or ‘UFO’ seen on Mars by the Curiosity Rover on June 20th.

…Sadly, the UFO in question turned out to be only as extraterrestrial as a camera glitch.

Interviewed by The Huffington Post, Justin Maki, the main camera operator for the rover, said, “This is a hot pixel that has been around since we started using the Right Navcam (…) In the thousands of images we’ve received from Curiosity, we see ones with bright spots nearly every week, these can be caused by cosmic-ray hits or sunlight glinting from rock surfaces, as the most likely explanations.”

As any photographer will tell you, ‘hot pixels’ sometimes occur during long exposure shots. Such glitches are usually caused by the camera’s sensors momentarily overheating (although they pose no danger to the camera equipment itself).

Amateur photographers occasionally mistake hot pixels for paranormal phenomena as well. In fact, the ghost website ‘Photographing The Paranormal.com’ actually has a section on these little buggers. It warns potential ghost hunters that,

“A perfectly symmetric small red dot in your picture is probably nothing paranormal, especially if it is at the same spot in most of your pictures. That’s actually called a hot pixel, if you spot one, don’t call the press!”

Older astronomy enthusiasts will no doubt be reminded of the discovery of the ‘Martian face’, a famous image captured by NASA’s Viking 1 orbiter in 1976.

Various theorists hurried to suggest that the ‘face’ was evidence of a long-lost Martian civilization (complete with ‘pyramids’ and everything), but it was actually just a large formation, captured by the relatively low-resolution cameras of the 1970’s, that looked a bit like a face.

Modern images, of course, reveal nothing so grand. The ‘Martian Face’ fiasco is now seen as an example of paraeidolia, a psychological phenomenon that sees people finding recognizable patterns in otherwise random sounds and images, examples of which include The Man in the Moon, Rorschach tests and those times when people see the faces of religious figures in ordinary household objects.

So it seems that there was no reason for us to get excited after all (except that pictures of Mars are unassailably cool).

…Of course, the conspiracy nutters are never going to buy it, but hey, what can you do?

My Other Computer’s a TARDIS: Virtual Reality Makes Time Travel Possible

A new virtual form of ‘time travel’ could be employed to help victims of traumatic experiences overcome their ordeals.

In a computer generated ‘virtual world’, participants can move about and interact with their environment in a similar manner to how they would in the real world.

Professor Mars are unassailably cool, told BBC news that,

“In virtual reality, the brain’s low level perceptual system does not distinguish between the virtual and the real world; the brain takes what it sees and hears in a surrounding environment as given (…) Therefore, if they had an experience with the illusion of time travel, there is implicit learning that the past is mutable, that is: ‘my own past decisions don’t matter because they’re changeable’.”

The latest study, published in the journal ‘Frontiers in Psychology’ featured a scenario wherein 32 test subjects witnessed a brutal multiple murder. In the virtual scenario, (presumably designed to induce both a moral dilemma and a controllable level of trauma) a man opened fire in a crowded art gallery and ‘killed’ five people.

Gunman starts shooting in the virtual world

The group then elected to ‘go back in time’ and attempt to prevent the murders.

Half of the group were not allowed to change their actions and simply had to repeat the event, the other half were allowed to intervene, but knew that doing so would result in the death of one person. Essentially, these people had to face the ethical dilemma of forfeiting the life of that one person in order to save five people.

Unsurprisingly, most of the test group chose to sacrifice the one life.

In terms of practical applications, this equipment is expected to allow people suffering with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and other psychological issues to confront their previous actions/inactions and better understand them in order to forgive themselves and move on.

Such technology might also be applied to prisoners undergoing therapy and/or rehabilitation, or even survivors of violent assaults.

Dr. Friedman Doron of the Sammy Ofer School of Communications in Israel, who worked as the study’s lead author, said that, for now, his team’s work is the closest people can get to actual time travel. He told BBC news,

“Highly immersive virtual reality is very visceral. People hide behind the desk when they get shot. Some of the subjects duck down. It’s the best thing we can do for time travel until the physicists do their job and come up with a time machine. For now this is the closest thing.”

Have You Ever Thought How Do 2 way radios work?

To put it simply, a two-way radio is a device that can both receive and transmit voice messages. In broader terms, it can be said that most wireless communication, and it may include cellular systems, fall under the definition. However, these days, two-way radio is a term to describe radio system for group call communication. The two-way radio comes in several technical names such as Public Access Mobile Radio, Private Mobile Radio, Land Mobile Radio and Professional Mobile Radio. These present times, two-way radios are often called “walkie talkies”. There are several kinds of two-way radio systems and some are able to make use of base and mobile configuration, while some re able to utilize a radio network infrastructure.

A typical two-way radio includes a PTT button, also known as Push-To-Talk button. The button activates the transmitter and the user simply needs to talk to the device to start communicating. The user must release the PTT button in order to receive transmissions from the other line.

A two-way radio is able to communicate with other radio devices. However, direct radio communication has very limited range. To overcome the problem, a radio network infrastructure may be used to extend the range of communications. The rest of the article is going to cover more details about how 2 way radios work and other useful information.

Receiving Radio Waves

Just like other forms of Wireless communications, a two-way radio sends messages over the air. In order to achieve this, the antenna of a way radio contains a specific set of electrons. If the two-way radio features multiple channels, then there is specific sets of electrons are each channel. Whenever a radio transmission is received by the two-way radio, the electrons get excited. The electrons then create electrical impulses. Electrical impulses are then sent to a small processor, which will then convert the electrical impulses to words and sounds that can be understood by humans. The sounds are produced by the speakers within that two way radio.

Keep in mind that there are always radio waves are floating in the air. Because of it, there is always a nondescript sound that may be produced by the two-way radios. To solve the issue, a lot of two-way radios feature a “squelch” setting; and with it, the user can adjust the signal threshold for clearer communications.

Sending Transmissions

Two-way radios can also send messages across the air. The main idea is to convert the sound to radio waves. However, the defining characteristic about the way radio is its ability the convert back the radio waves back to legible sounds.

Whenever a user speaks into a two-way radio, a membrane within the device will vibrate as a response to the sounds. The vibrations are sent to the processor, which in turn converts them to electrical impulses and readies it for transmission.. Finally, the transmission is sent to the antenna which is then broadcasted in the form of radio waves. These radio waves are then received by another device and convert them back to a legible sound.

Multiple Channels

As two-way radios are getting more and more popular, it is possible for more than one party communicating in the same line or frequency. This can cause a lot of confusion and interference. To solve the problem, modern two-way radios are able to utilize multiple channels.

For a two-way radio to broadcast on multiple channels, the device must be able to generate radio waves in multiple frequencies. Furthermore, the device must be able to send frequencies with very little fluctuations. These fluctuations are actually caused by the transmitted voices. The fluctuations can be minimized through “frequency modulation”. The modulated transmissions are then sent to the device’s antenna.

The device must also excite the proper electrons. Once the proper electrons are excited, an outgoing radio wave is then produced.

These radio waves may be picked up by another device tuning into the same frequency. Furthermore, the device must be within range of the transmitting device. The range of two-way radio is usually determined by a couple of factors such as atmospheric conditions, radio’s battery power and the size of the two-radio’s antenna.

Whenever a device picks up the transmission, the receiving radio must filter the signals through an electronic filter known as a bandpass filter. Finally, the transmission is then converted back to sound.

Why Choose A Two Way Radio

The two-way radio is one of the earliest forms of wireless communication. However, in today’s modernized communication environment, a question arises – is the way radio a viable technology? The answer to that question is a yes. This is because the two-way radio has its own unique advantages that may not be found in other forms of wireless communications. Below are two of them:

Instant Communication – the ability to communicate between two or more parties almost instantly is one of the most defining advantages of the two-way radio. A user only needs to press the “Push-To-Talk” button and within seconds a receiver will be able to receive the audio messages. Furthermore, the entire system is set up around the idea of “quick call” and “quick receive”. This is the main reason why the organizations rely on the two-way radio technology for operational and tactical communications. The system can also make use of encryption technology for a more secure communication.

Group Communications

Another unique advantage of two-way radio is its ability to facilitate “group call” or “one-to-many” communications very efficiently. By efficient, it means that the user can communicate with one, hundreds or thousands at the same time. There is no need for a user to repeat the same message if he/she needs to communicate to more than one individual.

A two-way radio is one of the earliest technologies used for wireless communications. Even though it is a bit outdated compared to other forms of wireless communications, but the usefulness is still very applicable today. The main idea of how 2 way radios work revolves around on sending and receiving radio waves, which in turn is converted to legible sounds. The idea and technology behind two-way radio may be simple, but nevertheless it is still a very well-used form of communication in today’s world.

What is a Communications Engineering

Communications engineering is a disparate array of technological disciplines brought together under one all-encompassing banner. The disciplines considered to be part of a communication engineer’s skill set include telecommunications, mobile phone networks and Internet maintenance (but are by no means limited to those examples).

As we wrote earlier this month, any technology that aids in communication, from a walkie-talkie to a Skype account, is technically a communication technology; therefore, it also follows that anybody who works in these different areas can call him/herself a communications engineer

The theory behind this move is that communications technology is becoming more streamlined and, to some extent, more homogenized (think of the ubiquity of mobile phones and social media) and so, it makes sense to bring communications technology together as a single subject as well.

As I type this, it is actually possible to get a Degree in Communications Engineering (as a single subject) from many universities worldwide. However, communications engineers frequently hold other Degrees such as electrical engineering, physics, telecommunications and/or computer science.

The sort of students that apply for courses like this (and subsequently work in the related areas) are generally logistically minded, tech-savvy people who are comfortable learning new skills and adapt quickly to new technology. Certainly, the money can be good for a decent engineer with a good reputation and an up-to-date skill set. Industries that rely on the expedient exchange of information (news networks, the stock exchange, big businesses and etc) should be the goal for the ambitious communications engineer (as well as the eager graduate).

Communications engineering is a vast and somewhat esoteric subject, because it combines so many different disciplines. Ideally, good communications engineers would be just as able to handle microwave engineering as they would a downed computer network, so it takes a smart cookie to be really good at the job.

Communications engineers are often quite business savvy as well. A big part of the job is dealing with clients or management, making presentations and working effectively as part of a team. Experience of modern business practice is not essential, but from the looks of things, it certainly helps.

The vast majority of communications engineers work for specific telecommunications companies and/or manufacturers, although some are self-employed as consultants or on fixed contracts.

According to Targetjobs.co.uk, typical job responsibilities for a communications engineer include: undertaking site surveys, agreeing to and staying within a client budget, staying up-to-date with technological information, problem solving (obviously!), creating test procedures, creating ‘worst case scenario’ plans for companies to follow and presenting companies/clients with the best way to manage their communication systems.

A Personal experience of a doorman using an earpiece

Communication, as you all know is so vital in all aspects of our lives. In any security set up, whether you are protecting high profile personnel or you are carrying out a covert operation or even just working as a doorman, one thing has been clear to me; that communication between you and your team or your bosses is vital as well in ensuring that things run smoothly. However, communication may be interrupted depending on the working environment. Other days you may find yourself in rather noisy crowds. When this happens, it is important that you choose the right communication device and accessories that will make your work easier. An earpiece has been one of my favorite working gadgets for a very long time.

Why Do I like the doorman earpiece

Ever since I started using doorman earpiece, things have really been smooth for me and my work. An earpiece makes it practically simple to communicate and coordinate things between me and my colleagues together with my employers. Among the things that make these earpieces interesting and fun to work with include:

· They are en suite with excellent quality Kevlar cabling and strain relief that are long lasting which protects them from spoiling when pushed to the extreme.

· Doorman earpieces have excellent audio quality that easily neutralise any surrounding noise allowing an operative to hear everything said to them in a very clear and loud manner. In addition, most of them are fitted with microphones making it easier for a two way communication.

· They are compatible with a lot of gadgets and even more comforting is the fact they can easily be replaced at a very affordable price.

· Unlike many electronic gadgets, doorman earpiece is pretty easier to configure and use. It will interest you to know that no skill or knowledge is required to set it up and make it work.

What to look for when purchasing an earpiece

Technology keeps changing from time to time, and so are needs. As a doorman/bouncer, there are specific things you ought to look for when purchasing a doorman earpiece. These are features that are needs to be compatible, rather friendly with your working environment and your preference as a person. For instance, if your work is based in a noisy environment like say a club, you will need very fine audio quality sets that fit properly in your ear preventing any interruption from outside. In addition, you may consider the cords strength if you are working in a hostile environment where people keep getting in fights.

Compatibility is another important thing to look for in a earpiece. Note that there are earpieces that are compatible with nearly all types of gadgets while others are restricted to only specified gadgets. For flexibility be keen to purchase an earpiece is works with wide range of gadgets. Finally, the cost is equally as important. Contrary to what many people believe, expensive doesn’t always mean better, the same way inexpensive doesn’t necessarily mean something is of poor quality. Compare features and always go for one that looks a bit refined for a better experience.

Conclusion

It is clear that every one working in security should absolutely have a set of doorman earpieces. It is not only efficient, but also profoundly valuable to this line of work. Take your time, and determine what will work for and get the earpiece that will make your work easier.

What Is The Doctor Who Earpiece And Where To Get It

The short answer is ‘no’. Apple Earpods debuted in 2012, a full six years after the ‘Doctor Who’ episode ‘Rise of the Cybermen’ first aired.

Within the context of the series, the Earpod devices were designed as a metaphor for society’s perceived over-reliance on portable technology in the 21st century. The name ‘Earpod’ was a play on words, meant to superficially sound like the word ‘iPod’.

In addition, the fictional earpieces were mainly utilized as a way to re-package classic Doctor Who antagonists the Cybermen for a new audience (who may have been unfamiliar with them following the gap between the show’s cancellation in 1989 and its subsequent reintroduction in 2005). Variations on the Earpod device are also utilized in later episodes from the same series (in particular, ‘Army of Ghosts’).

Whilst it is something of a stretch to imagine that nobody at Apple has ever watched ‘Doctor Who’, the use of the name did not seem to affect the American computer firm’s decision to create and market their own brand of ‘Earpod’, in 2012.

doctor who earpiece

In terms of legality, it seems reasonable to assume that ‘Doctor Who’ created the brand name for satiric purposes, rather than to create an entirely fictional brand/product (such as The Simpson’s ‘Duff Beer’).

Had Apple simply adopted a product name already owned by the BBC, there may have been a legal scuffle between the two corporations, but since BBC’s product was obviously intended as a wry commentary or, at most, a satirical send-up of existing technology (in particular technology made and marketed by Apple), then it is highly doubtful that there was any friction at all.

Apple’s Earpods (which, as far as we know, have never caused anybody to be turned into a cybernetic creature hell-bent on universal obliteration) are available at a fairly affordable price (the Apple site lists them at £25.00 before P&P), but do not have a reputation for being one of the company’s better products. In a particularly scathing review, TechRadar wrote that,

“The tinkle at the high-end is certainly better than before, and there’s improved bass as well. So they’re more than good enough if sound quality is not something you are bothered about. If you’re going to be buying an iPhone 5 or one of the new iPods, you’ll be getting some marginally better earphones than you might have expected, so that’s a good thing. But for anyone thinking of buying these things separately for £25/$30 – forget it. That price is utterly ludicrous. For that money you could bag yourself a decent pair of Sennheisers – low end ones admittedly – but they would still be head and shoulders better than the Apple EarPods. In fact, we challenge you to find a pair of £25 earphones on Amazon that sound worse than this – you won’t be able to”.

All things considered, the Earpod is a pretty basic variation on the standard Apple headphones. It is not even marginally related to the mind-controlling earpieces utilized by the Cybermen. At least, as far as we know…

What Is Audio Surveillance?

The basis of the post is to make you think about what in life is important and what does getting the up-to-date headset really represent to people

Audio surveillance is the act of listening to third-party conversations and recording them. This technique is frequently used by law enforcement, private detectives and government spy agencies. Most audio surveillance consists of either bugging a room, wearing a wire, tapping a phone or distance listening. Each provides distinct advantages and disadvantages, depending on the situation.

Wiretapping is one of the most common and simple form of audio surveillance. This is preferred because it is highly inconspicuous and allows for two sides of a conversation to be clearly recorded. Small audio devices, commonly called bugs, are attached to the internal circuitry of a telephone to pick up a conversation. A signal is wirelessly transmitted to another device that records the conversation. The drawback of this method is getting access to a subject’s telephone to properly wiretap it.

audio surveillanceA room microphone is another audio surveillance technique that often is utilized. This involves planting a wireless microphone in a room to pick up conversations. Disguised room microphones are available to look like pens, clocks, stuffed animals and a variety of other covert forms. This microphone sends a signal to a receiver, just like a wiretap does, and the signal can be directly recorded. The disadvantage here is access to some rooms and getting only one side of a phone conversation if it takes place in that room.

Concealable transmitters known as body wires are well-known devices that have been featured in many television shows and movies. A small microphone and transmitting device are worn under the clothes of a person in order to send a signal back to a receiver and record a conversation. This allows the person wearing the wire to ask questions and get specific details that simply listening to other people’s conversations could not provide. The disadvantage of this method is getting access to the person needed to be recorded and also concealing the microphone in a way that hides it but allows for clear recording.

Long-distance microphones are another covert means of audio surveillance. A parabolic microphone, often called a shotgun microphone because of its long shape, has a powerful ability to pick up conversations up to 300 feet (91.4 m) away. Its main disadvantage is its high sensitivity. It can pick up other noises and cannot function if obstructions, such as trees and automobiles, are between the microphone and the conversation.

Can iPad resist the hybrid PC/tablet trap?

Can’t get over how inexpensive the PC Tablet is, an incredible deal for a top-end product!

When the iPad came out, almost four years ago, it was immediately misunderstood by industry insiders – and joyously embraced by normal humans. Just Google iPad naysayer for a few nuggets of iPad negativism. Even Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, couldn’t avoid the derivative trap: He saw the new object as a mere evolution of an existing one and shrugged off the iPad as a bigger phone. Schmidt should have known better, he had been an Apple director in the days when Jobs believed the two companies were “natural allies”.

I was no wiser. I got my first iPad on launch day and was immediately disappointed. My new tablet wouldn’t let me do the what I did on my MacBook Air – or my tiny EeePC running Windows Xp (not Vista!). For example, writing a Monday Note on an iPad was a practical impossibility – and still is.

I fully accept the personal nature of this view and, further, I don’t buy the media consumption vs. productivity dichotomy Microsoft and its shills (Gartner et al.) tried to foist on us. If by productivity we mean work, work product, earning one’s living, tablets in general and the iPad in particular have more than made the case for their being productivity tools as well as education and entertainment devices.

Still, preparing a mixed media document, even a moderately complex one, irresistibly throws most users back to a conventional PC or laptop. With multiple windows and folders, the PC lets us accumulate text, web pages, spreadsheets and graphics to be distilled, cut and pasted into the intended document.

Microsoft now comes to the rescue. Their hybrid Surface PC/Tablet lets you “consume” media, play games in purely tablet mode – and switch to the comfortable laptop facilities offered by Windows 8. The iPad constricts you to ersatz folders, preventing you to put your document’s building blocks in one place? No problem, the Surface device features a conventional desktop User Interface, familiar folders, comfy Office apps as well as a “modern” tile-based Touch UI. The best of both worlds, skillfully promoted in TV ads promising work and fun rolled into one device.

What’s not to like?

John Kirk, a self-described “recovering attorney”, whose tightly argued and fun columns are always worth reading, has answers. In a post onTablets Metaphysics – unfortunately behind a paywall – he focuses on the Aristotelian differences between tablets and laptops. Having paid my due$$ to the Techpinions site, I will quote Kirk’s summation [emphasis mine]:

Touch is ACCIDENTAL to a Notebook computer. It’s plastic surgery. It may enhance the usefulness of a Notebook but it doesn’t change the essence of what a Notebook computer is. A keyboard is ACCIDENTAL to a Tablet. It’s plastic surgery. It may enhance the usefulness of a Tablet, but it doesn’t change the essence of what a Tablet is. Further — and this is key — a touch input metaphor and a pixel input metaphor must be wholly different and wholly incompatible with one another. It’s not just that they do not comfortably co-exist within one form factor. It’s also that they do not comfortably co-exist within our minds eye.

In plain words, it’s no accident that tablets and notebooks are distinctly different from one another. On the contrary, their differences — their incompatibilities — are the essence of what makes them what they are.

Microsoft, deeply set in the culture of backwards compatibility that served it so well for so long did the usual thing, it added a tablet layer on top of Windows 7. The result didn’t take the market by storm and appears to have caused the exit of Steve Sinofsky, the Windows czar now happily ensconced at Harvard Business School and a Board Partner with the Andreessen Horowitz venture firm. Many think the $900M Surface RT write-off also contributed to Ballmer’s August 2013 resignation.

Now equipped with hindsight, Apple’s decision to stick to a “pure” tablet looks more inspired than lucky. If we remember that a tablet project preceded the iPhone, only to be set aside for a while, Apple’s “stubborn minimalism”, its refusal to hybridize the iPad might be seen as the result of long experimentation – with more than a dash of Steve Jobs (and Scott Forstall) inflexibility.

Apple’s bet can be summed up thus: MacBooks and iPads have their respective best use cases, they both reap high customer satisfaction scores. Why ruin a good game?

Critics might add: Why sell one device when we can sell two? Apple would rather “force” us to buy two devices in order to maximize revenue. On this, Tim Cook often reminds Wall Street of Apple’s preference for self-cannibalization, for letting its new and less expensive products displace existing ones. Indeed, the iPad keeps cannibalizing laptops, PCs and Macs alike.

All this leaves one question unanswered: Is that it? Will the iPad fundamentals stay the way they have been from day one? Are we going to be thrown back to our notebooks when composing the moderately complex mixed-media documents I earlier referred to? Or will the iPad hardware/software combination become more adept at such uses?

To start, we can eliminate a mixed-mode iOS/Mac device. Flip a switch, it’s an iPad, flip it again, add a keyboard/touchpad and you have a Mac. No contraption allowed. We know where to turn to for that.

Next, a new iOS version allows multiple windows to appear on the iPad screen; folders are no longer separately attached to each app as they are today but lets us store documents from multiple apps in one place. Add a blinking cursor for text and you have… a Mac, or something too close to a Mac but still different. Precisely the reason why that won’t work.

(This might pose the question of an A7 or A8 processor replacing the Intel chip inside a MacBook Air. It can be done – a “mere matter of software” – but how much would it cut from the manufacturing cost? $30 to $50 perhaps. Nice but not game-changing, a question for another Monday Note.)

More modest, evolutionary changes might still be welcome. Earlier this year, Counternotions proposed a slotted clipboard as An interim solution for iOS ’multitasking‘:

[…] until Apple has a more general solution to multitasking and inter-app navigation, the four-slot clipboard with a visible UI should be announced at WWDC. I believe it would buy Ive another year for a more comprehensive architectural solution, as he’ll likely need it.

This year’s WWDC came and went with the strongest iOS update so far, but no general nor interim solution to the multitasking and inter-app navigation discussed in the post. (Besides the Counternotions blog, this erudite and enigmatic author also edits counternotions.tumblr.com and can be followed on Twitter as @Kontra.)

A version of the above suggestion could be conceptualized as a floating dropbox to be invoked when needed, hovering above the document worked on. This would not require the recreation of a PC-like windows and desktop UI. Needed components could be extracted from the floating store, dragged and dropped on the work in process.

We’ll have to wait and see if and how Apple evolves the iPad without falling into the hybrid trap.

On even more speculative ground, a recent iPad Air intro video offered a quick glimpse of the Pencil stylus by Fifty-Three, the creators of the well-regarded Paper iPad app. So far, styli haven’t done well on the iPad. Apple only stocks children-oriented devices from Disney and Marvel. Nothing else, in spite of the abundance of such devices offered on Amazon. Perhaps we’ll someday see Apple grant Bill Gates his wish, as recounted by Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson:

“I’ve been predicting a tablet with a stylus for many years,” he told me. “I will eventually turn out to be right or be dead.”

Someday, we might see an iPad, larger or not, Pro or not, featuring a screen with more degrees of pressure sensitivity. After seeing David Hockney’s work on iPads at San Francisco’s de Young museum, my hopes are high.

Source – http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jan/09/ipad-hybrid-pc-tablet-trap

IED blast in Afghanistan inspires ex-Green Beret to reinvent two-way radio

So i discovered this short article on the internet and i was told that just posting it like a whole article isn’t a good thing, I got consent from the original writer and read up how to curate posts, so that is it…….i thought this was fascinating because it highlights some of the highs and lows that I encountered when i was working inside the business.

U.S. Army Special Forces Sgt. Tom Katis was headed through the mountains from Asadabad to Jalalabad in Northeastern Afghanistan to catch a plane out of the country for a week of leave in January 2003 when 70 pounds of plastic explosives buried in the road detonated directly under the lead vehicle in his convoy, setting off an ambush.

Shooting erupted from the reeds along the Kunar River, and Katis found his crew switching among numerous radio channels to call in air support and a medical helicopter for two wounded soldiers, as well as to update his commander and coordinate with nearby units.

Tom Katis

“I had to take guys off team frequencies to monitor empty traffic. All of a sudden, the team was not on the same frequency,” said Katis. “We all had radios that cost $15,000 each, and we’re yelling at each other.”

At that moment, Katis decided that even when operating as designed, radios were too difficult to use in combat. Live-only microphones caused missed connections. Choices had to be made quickly between satellite and line-of-sight systems.

That trauma was the kernel for Voxer, a San Francisco-based “push-to-talk” smartphone application developer that Katis co-founded in 2007 and hopes will take a big chunk of the multi-billion-dollar two-way radio hardware and services industry.

After finishing his second Army tour in 2003, Katis immediately co-founded a private security firm called Triple Canopy that has grown to 8,000 employees by catering to military, government and corporate customers around the world.

The radio idea stuck with Katis, however, who had worked a stint at a startup in Silicon Valley from 1999 to 2001.

“The first thing that was obvious was that everything needed to go on the Internet,” said Katis, a graduate of Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in ethics, politics and economics who interrupted his business career to re-enroll in the military after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

At Triple Canopy, Katis in 2004 met Matt Ranney, who became Voxer’s co-founder and CTO. What they and early Voxer employees later created was an Internet-based hybrid between a walkie-talkie and a group messaging application that enables users to talk live or send voice, text and photo messages that can be retrieved at will, all while displaying individual users’ locations. Venture investors to date have funded their efforts with $30 million.

It’s a deceptively simple system, according to Gartner, but Voxer has received 126 patents around the world to protect its inventions, which Katis says provide a platform for significantly improving communications in the private sector and government.

In May 2011, Voxer released a free version of its app and, though it was initially slow to catch on, it exploded to nearly 70 million users by 2012.

At that point Voxer had to choose whether to focus on the consumer app and generate money through advertising or some other vehicle — a vision that many other entrepreneurs were chasing — or try to build a communications product that businesses and governments would be willing to buy. For Katis and his cohorts, the choice was clear.

“A free consumer app was not going to solve the problems we want to solve,” said Katis in an interview in Voxer’s San Francisco headquarters in the historic Phelan Building on Market Street. “I think I can build a much bigger company than that. This is a hundred-billion-dollar industry that I think we can go and take a very meaningful piece of.”

Katis still loves and intends to keep the free app, but Voxer turned its attentions to building more sophisticated features, including encryption, a web-browser-based version for administrators, an installed appliance that companies or government agencies (think three letters) can run themselves and a function that mimics the way two-way radios squawk out transmissions in real-time.

Voxer launched a roughly $10-a-month-per-user business version in June 2013 and, while Katis says the first year was very much a learning process concerning how to make corporate sales, the company just scored its biggest customer yet, the North American division of a major international automobile manufacturer, the identity of which it cannot yet make public. In addition, Roto-Rooter, the national plumbing repair business, in April started to roll Voxer out to about 900 people, a quarter of its field staff, and Voxer has trials underway with various U.S. agencies.

Most of the sales to date have been to companies that asked to upgrade from the free app, said Katis, adding that the company is now hiring in sales and marketing.

One inbound customer was Chris Marino, owner of Xtreme Snow Pros, a snow removal service in Mahwah, N.J., who used the business version last winter for the first time after testing out many different two-way radio systems. Most of the other systems required hardware purchases were more expensive and less versatile, he said.

Marino’s staff balloons during snow season from five to 70 employees with seasonal help, and Voxer lets him communicate with each one individually or all at once from his desk.

“Voxer Business was an incredible asset to us,” Marino said. “It’s a truly great product.”

 

What Headset Fits My Bike?

The headset of a bicycle is, in simplest terms, the part of the bike that allows the steering column and front wheel to rotate and turn. It is, therefore, fairly important to the general running of a bike (as we’re sure you’ll agree!)

A bicycle headset generally consists of two cups that are pressed to the top and bottom of the headtube, there are bearings inside the cups that provide low friction contact between the cup and the steerer. This setup allows the rider to be able to steer and operate the bike with maximum efficiency.

Today’s bikes use lots of different headset styles, so we’ll take you through a few of the most common ones (because we’re nice like that).

  1. Threaded Headsets – These headsets are the most simple and ‘classic’ of all headsets. They were once nearly ubiquitous, but times have moved on since then. According to ParkTool.com, “The “threaded” in the name refers to the external threading at the top of the fork steering column. Bearing cups are pressed into the bike head tube. The bearings, which may be loose ball bearings, retainer ball bearings, or cartridge bearings, sit above and below the pressed races. The top most bearing-race has internal threading, and is held in place by a threaded locknut. The stem has no effect on the headset adjustment”.
  2. Threadless Headsets – Threadless headsets are actually quite similar to their threaded cousins, with one major difference (and you’ll probably see this one coming), there is no threading. According to ParkTool, “The top race uses an internal centering sleeve on the column to maintain alignment to the bearing cup. Pressure is applied to the top race from the stem. Threadless Headsets must use a compatible stem that matches the steering column diameter. The stem binds to the outside of the column, and holds the top race in adjustment. The threadless standards are 1-inch and 1-1/8 inch diameter steering column.”
  3. Low Profile Headsets – Alternately known as ‘Integrated Headsets’, ‘Internal Headsets’ and ‘Zero Stack Headsets’ (amongst others), these headsets use pressure frame cups to secure the bearings. “The cups have a flange, or lip, and sit adjacent to the outer edge of the top and bottom of the headtube. The headtube is a relatively large outside diameter, approximately 50mm, and cups allow the bearings to sit flush or even inside the headtube. The headset bearings sit “internally” to the top and bottom of the headtube. Some models use a cup that holds a cartridge bearing. The cartridge bearing is a slip fit into the cups. The cups act as a bearing holder and do not take bearing movement or wear directly. Other types have the cartridge bearing and cup/holder as a unit. These are simply replaced as a unit when it is worn out. Still another version of this type uses a cup and cone system with caged ball bearings, similar to the conventional threadless headsets”.

Of course, its up to you to decide which of these styles best suites you and your bike.

SOURCES

http://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help/headset-standards

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Headset_(bicycle_part