bookmark_borderLithium Ion Battery

Different types of li-ion batteries make use of different types of cathodes. The cathodes are made of lithium molecules. Generally, the anodes are made of carbon. As with other types of batteries, the chemical reaction that happen between the cathode, anode and the electrolyte generate electric current. Aside from this, the stuff used for these will affect the cost, capacity, performance and the safety of a certain type of battery.

Li-ion batteries, for instance, that feature a lithium cobalt oxide cathode can give you a bit higher capacity. However, they are more reactive because of the lower thermal capacities. Another great option is the lithium iron phosphate. Their life cycle is 4-5 times longer. Moreover, their power density is around 10 times better.

These batteries are of various classes, but they are commonly used in portable or consumer devices like smartphones and laptops. Aside from this, this type of battery is also popular for use in aerospace, military and other electric automobiles.

Given below are some pros and cons of lithium ion batteries.

  • Lighter and smaller: These batteries are lightweight but offer higher capacity than other types of products out there. Therefore, it is commonly used in portable devices where the physical specs like form factor and weight are on the list of important considerations.
  • Energy Density: Lion batteries feature higher density of energy than other types, which means you can enjoy higher capacity irrespective of the size. That is why these batteries are an ideal choice for power-hungry devices like smartphones and laptops. With the advancements in technology, we will have higher capacities down the road.
  • Self-discharge: Another great characteristic of a Li-ion battery is that it has only 1.5% self-discharge rate per month, which means that it offers longer-shelf life. The reason is that its discharge rate is lower than most of other rechargeable batteries. Here it’s important to note that the self-discharge rate of a nickel-metal hydride is 20% per month.
  • Fast charging: This type of battery recharges quickly. Usually, it takes a lot less time to recharge than other types on the market.
  • Open-circuit voltage: Li-ion batteries offer high open-circuit voltage compared to other batteries like nickel-metal hydride, lead acid and so on.
  • Lifespan: These batteries last longer than other batteries. Even after hundreds of recharging cycles, it will retain its capacity. For instance, some batteries of this type loss only 30% of their capacity even after 1000 cycles.

bookmark_borderVirtual Desktop or Remote Desktop

Remote Desktop

Initially known as terminal services, the remote desktop is a Microsoft service that allows users to have a virtual session by accessing files and applications through a server. The experience of using remote services is more or less like using a local desktop; the only difference is that the session is processed on a server not the desktop.

Remote desktops are relatively simpler as little infrastructure requirements are needed to be met; thereby reducing implementation costs. Moreover, it helps in enhancing remote worker’s efficiency because it is most suitable for remote workers, contractors and corporate workers working from a remote location.

However, the biggest drawback of a remote desktop is that it has compatibility issues. Since it has a terminal environment, many applications fail to work. Nonetheless, improvements have been made over the years and many applications have started working, but still some applications do not work till date.

Virtual Desktop

Also known as VDI, the virtual desktops are basically interfaces that run on a virtual environment and not on a local desktop. However, the virtual desktop environment and infrastructure tends to be more convoluted than the remote desktop. The administrators are responsible for managing numerous virtual desktops

Some of the important benefits of a virtual desktop are: the administrators find it easy to adapt or allocate the RAM capacity, disk space and various other peripherals; the data on the virtual desktop can be backed up and easily restored using snapshots; virtual desktops are easily deploy able as it has the capability to replicate and develop templates in a span of a few minutes.

Although VDIs are a costly option, they have the capability to provide numerous benefits that outweigh this drawback.

It is important to understand that both desktops are meant to be operated in a different environment; therefore, your needs and requirements must be matched to the features of these desktop services before deciding which one to go for.

bookmark_borderEfficient Personalised Variable Data Printing

Digital printers already have the equipment needed to produce VDP campaigns, so there’s no great expenditure required to begin offering VDP to their clients; all that they need to understand is the software requirements and the workflow digital signature.

From the hardware perspective, a variable data print set-up looks like a lot like any other digital printing installation, with a digital press, a RIP or digital front-end (DFE) to drive it and whatever inline or offline finishing equipment is needed to turn printed sheets into a sellable product. The differences from normal static print are mostly at the file creation and pre-press stages: the two main software components are the database and the authoring software, though VDP also puts some extra demands on the RIP or DFE.

As discussed elsewhere in this series, the printer doesn’t necessarily have to own a database application, as long as the data needed for the personalization can be extracted and supplied in CSV or Excel formats to use with the master template in the authoring application.

VDP authoring applications come in a variety of types of digital signature online. Some, like PTI FusionPro (recently acquired by Ricoh), are plug-ins to popular professional design and layout tools such as Adobe InDesign or Illustrator. Others are dedicated VDP tools or the printed output part of cross-media production suites; PrintShop Mail is an example of the former, while DirectSmile, XMPie and GMC Inspire are the latter. Vendors of DFEs and/or digital presses also offer VDP creation tools, such as the FreeForm tools that are included with every Fiery controller, or Xerox’s Freeflow software.

Whichever type of authoring software is used, the same thing happens at print time: the customer-specific data – which may be both images and text – is fed into the variable fields in the layout template, according to the business rules assigned to the template. This generates a print stream which is sent to the DFE.

There are a number of different print hand-off formats for VDP, reflecting the history and origins of the technology in high-end transactional print. Some are vendor-specific, such AFP (Advanced Function Presentation) from IBM, VPS (Variable Print Specification) from Creo or Fiery FreeForm and FreeForm 2; some are open formats based on existing commercial graphic arts standards like PostScript or PDF. These include VIPP, an open VDP language from Xerox for output of PostScript files, and PDF/VT, a variant of the PDF ISO standard that is optimized for VDP applications. PPML (Personalised Print Mark-up Language) is another open standard which allows the use of PostScript, PDF, EPS, JPEG and TIFF formats for pages or page components.

Which of these formats is supported will depend on the authoring software. Printer or DFE vendors’ software will, of course, support their own equipment but may also support others, especially the open standards PPML and PDF or PDF/VT. VDP and cross-media software from independent developers usually support the widest range of options.

It’s worth noting that not all the VDP formats are equivalent. The older, vendor-specific ones don’t all support the same level of graphical flexibility, in particular, the use of transparency and layer effects to combine images and variable type. For printers just starting with VDP, this is unlikely to present an immediate problem, but if your plans include producing customized images using variable data text, the more recent PDF and PDF/VT standards are probably better options, though PPML has support for transparency too. PDF and PPML allow previewing of the print file for checking, though the latter requires a dedicated viewer.

The hand-off format also has to be understood by the DFE. Again, single-vendor solutions tend to support their own formats best, though may accept others in addition, typically the open standards. DFEs such as Fiery support all the major formats and standards, giving their users the most flexibility. A feature common to all DFEs that can process VDP work is the ability to ‘cache’ or store and re-use objects that appear in each document so that they do not have to be processed each time. Most of the VDP formats explicitly support this by identifying such elements within the print stream or appending or referencing them as separate items. Some DFEs can also analyze the incoming print stream and identify and cache repeated items automatically to improve performance.

bookmark_borderPointer Technology At A Glance

Programming and Writing in General

My first training in computer programming languages came from Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Everywhere I looked, I could identify things that reminded me of my training there. Because I’ve been doing a lot of fiction writing, I’ve noticed that even symbols like ellipses remind me of computer programming.

There was a time when I saw data as products on a conveyor belt. Because the products looked round and white, they reminded me of ellipses in the English language. Catching up to date, currently in fiction I’ve been writing about robotic technology.

This part of my fiction-writing is still under wraps but I’m sharing it here to make a point about pointers. Melting rock formations is the basis for what will fuel robots in my science fiction stories. After these rock and stone formations have melted down, they are re-formed into swirly mini balls that look like marbles. They melt as they course through what one might call a ‘pin ball machine’ system of a typical robot.

In programming, these marbles will represent data and when product after product or data after data are flowing through, in one direction, in order to change directions, you might use a pointer.

It’s easy enough to increment or decrement and go from one data product to another, but when you have to change directions amidst the hard drive mapping, you might use a pointer to point to a different address.

Object-Oriented Graphics

I once had a wise computer programming college teacher who tried everything up his sleeve to get his students to warm up to the idea of object-oriented programming. Looking at groups of data as enclosed in a graphical rectangle (such as the title of an article in a Publisher newsletter as it was being written), was a completely different paradigm than from a few years back.

Back then, everything was iterative, you and therefore the computer (because you programmed it) interpreted commands line by line (executing each one in a sequential pattern). These days our point of focus, of as to what gets to be ran (or executed in the code), jumps around.

That wise teacher said, take a graphical interface program and work backwards. Draw some objects on the screen, like filling in a rectangular space with text, or a round object with a graphic, and then look at the code to see how it was generated by the computer. I took it one step further and pretended that each raw rectangle, square or circle were each numbered.

That way if the objects were layered and the #6 object were on top of a #3 object and it had transparent areas to it, parts of the #3 object (graphic) would peek through. However, if you put a #12 object under the #6 object, nothing would happen except traditional layering, because the value of the underlying (graphic) object underneath #6 has to be labeled (tagged) something less than the value of the number 6.

In all these shaped objects, they can be resized to make them bigger or smaller. Therefore, you still have to have the appropriate font size for text within them and the appropriate proportion sizes also for the graphics within them.

If you’re lucky enough to buy software that lets you work ‘backwards’ that would be great! You can re-size objects, layer them, even number them mentally in your mind to keep track of them. Then, look at the code that the software generated to see how your formatted template (such as a newsletter) was created!

Button In A Button (Inheritance in C++)

The subject of object-oriented programming has always sparked something within my imagination. You see the first novel I ever wrote, was in the science fiction genre and I used what I learned computer-wise in the private industry to fuel the computer advancements within the novel.

In C++, you can inherit a class object or your class object can take on the characteristics of another class object. Therefore, there is an “is-a” or a “has-a” relationship that is possible with each class object created.

Picture this then: A button within a button, within a button, within a button, and so on…

If the middle button makes the outer button related to it (and it can do so, in three different modes – private, public and protected), then, it only stands to reason, to go ahead and document that relationship. Depending on how their inheritance relationship was tagged, you will have to list down what is private data (variables and functions) to the outer button.

Now, if the innermost button inherits from the middle button, then it too will have rules of engagement not only from the middle button, but yes, from the outer most button too.

A private relationship, means that everything (variables and functions) are private to the class only. A protected tag means that that class is accessible to classes that have a protected relationship with it. Finally a public tag, means that that class is accessible from within the entire program code.

So if an Orange Button class (the color orange is made up of the primary colors red and yellow) inherits from a protected Red Button Class and a private Yellow Button class, then the Red Button class can share with it all of its’ public and protected parts. The Yellow Button class can share with it only its’ public parts.

Imagining the nested relationships as a button within a button was what got me started in writing this article, but you can also think of it as the three primary colors (red, blue and yellow) and all of the colors that descend (or inherit) from them.

The wise thing to do always, when you get stuck, is to document, document, document. That way, you will know the appropriate question to ask regarding your programming/coding predicament.

Pass the Buck

When I think of pointers in the object-oriented field of programming, I think of a virtual arrow, progressively pointing and traveling from its left to right path in computer memory. There have been other symbolic representations of pointers in my mind as well. I have also imagined a spotlight from high on top of the rafters de-referencing the character, numerical, or graphical values of those memory slots.

Well, it turns out, there are even more effective ways of understanding the directional volition of pointers as they rifle through a virtual array. Think of a pointer as a long envelope capable of carrying a letter representation of whatever is in the memory location, that it is hovering over. I think of it as beige in color and parchment in card stock and that, what are contained in the memory slots are business letterheads all ready to be printed out by the printer.

Let’s say our long envelope hovers over memory slot #5. The letter document gets added to the beige envelope, and if we want to daisy chain that to the document in slot #7, we would easily travel over and skip slot #6 (because we move in sequential line order), to access and de-reference the document in slot #7. With the slot #7 document appended, we go ahead and print out what were contained in Pointer Beige Envelope #1. Therefore, so it goes on, in the deconstruction stage when we empty what Envelope #1 is carrying, by setting it to NULL.

To wrap everything up, I thought if you think of a pointer as a dollar bill, that you pass succinctly from memory slot to memory slot, that is by far the most clearest explanation of a pointer of all. To literally ‘pass the buck’ is to have the dollar bill act like the virtual arrow or the stage spotlight up on top of the rafters. It’s even better than the beige parchment envelope that I just spent time explaining about.

However, if everything is to be understood in sequential order, then the envelope pointer theory did make its appearance before the ‘passing the buck theory.’

Database Design

For a fun sprint into the combination of a fashion scene and a database design, I wrote a short story about indexing database files using the color spectrum available in nail polishes. In my short story “Daily Diary,” a young girl by the name of Zoe emails a fashion magazine editor asking her how to “shop” for a high school fashion show that she was going to be graded on by the end of the school term.

The fashion editor’s name was Cassie and Cassie’s suggestion to Zoe was to pick a nail color and shop for fashion pieces that matched that particular color. For example if Zoe had initially picked out a darker tan color, then she might budget out her fashion show account, by purchasing a wide leather belt, that would hang loosely around her waistline.

Also, for a bubble gum pink nail polish color, Zoe might pick up a few different shades of a camp shirts in that tone of pink. Cassie also pointed out that eye glasses, with outlandish frames that were also that shade of pink should also be welcomed into her collection, that and a few colors of boas.

The database part will then be for Zoe to learn a little about the PHP programming language to build an online database, using the nail polish colors as the index colors to mix and match the fashion pieces.

The days from the movie “Clueless” weren’t that far off, when the lead character computerized her whole wardrobe selection methods.

With a database that has already filed pieces of clothing away by using nail polish colors as index values, you could literally ask for a “match” between the tan and blue nail polish colors and find some mix and matchable wardrobe combinations.

bookmark_borderDangers of Digital Currency

The modern world is a kaleidoscope of electronic gadgets and systems that make possible things we only dreamed about as kids. Thanks to our electronic world, you can buy a house from your cellphone, see what the night sky looks like in real time on the other side of the world, or profit from nanosecond differences in trading times in the stock market. All before you get out of bed.

Just like my “modern” guitar friends, many people seem to take it for granted that the digital systems that underlie these miracles – the Internet, for example – are eternal. So when I hear someone make plans that assume uninterrupted connectivity, I think to myself: “What if the power goes off?”

Which brings me to one of the most frightening ideas I’ve come across in a while.

A U.S. tech giant is reportedly working on a software platform based on the infamous digital currency “Bitcoin.” The idea is to make it possible for major currencies like the dollar or euro to operate like Bitcoins. Anyone could transact with anyone else in the world directly, bypassing banks completely. Just log on, send your money and you’re done.

This promises a world with no banks, no fees and no hassles… but lots of danger.

Everyone knows that counterfeiting is a risk with paper money. That’s why individual bills have serial numbers on them. But the same applies to digital currencies. Unlike physical money, the electronic files that represent digital currency can be duplicated exactly, with no trace. Since spending a digital dollar doesn’t delete the electronic data that represents it, and in the absence of banks and their accounting systems, some other way is needed to prevent that dollar from being used again by the same person – so-called “double-spending.”

Bitcoin accomplishes this by means of a “block chain.” Every few minutes, a group of all recent Bitcoin transactions is created, called a block. This block is then quickly distributed across the Bitcoin system, where it is added to the ongoing chain of all Bitcoin transactions (hence the name). That way, if someone who has already spent a given Bitcoin (and has not received it back legitimately from a third party) tries to spend it again, the system will reject it as “counterfeit.”

Bitcoin accomplishes this by using a distributed system of anonymous “nodes” that keep track of the block chain. But the same thing could be accomplished by a central server. The tech company working on its own digital currency has therefore floated the idea of turning dollars and other currencies into digital form – with the central server controlled by central banks.

I don’t need to tell you what would happen under this system if the power goes out: No moolah. Of course, the same thing can and does happen now, with so much of our transacting done by credit or debit cards. But at least we have the option of keeping and using cash.

Am I paranoid in thinking that, no matter what the advantages of digital currencies – and bypassing banks is really tempting – the real danger isn’t power outages, but rather giving a central power the ability to turn our money on and off? The dangers of digital currency aren’t small. After all, imagine the opportunities for monetary mayhem: digital wealth confiscation… automatic taxation… courts issuing warrants to seize your digital money…

Nope. I’m a realist. I know that if companies have the power to do that, they will use it.

Yet another reason to stock up on gold, my friends… the ultimate store of value. So far, at least, nobody’s come up with a way to turn off its power.