Tag Archives: Technology

Who Invented That??

Pop quiz: Where were all these things invented?

  1. The first microprocessor, the 8088
  2. The Pentium and Celeron computer processors
  3. Anti-Virus software
  4. Code that enables sending email
  5. Mobile Phones
  6. Texting (SMS)
  7. Voicemail
  8. USB Flash drives
  9. The Super Iron Battery, which may be in your (next) electric car
  10. Transparent solar panels (“Solar Windows”)
  11. Drip irrigation
  12. Cherry Tomatoes
  13. Sodastream (A machine to make soda at home)
  14. The Pillcam (swallow-able colonoscopy device)
  15. Heart stents
  16. Radiation-free X-ray technology
  17. The Epilator hair-removal device
  18. A new technology for divers that extracts air from the water

Impressive list, huh? Without these inventions, the world would be a much different place, probably a worse one.

If you said, “The United States”, good guess, but no. The answer is Israel, the tiny, much-maligned country that has more research and development, and more Nobel Prizes per capita, than any other country on earth.

How could this be? In a country that didn’t even exist 70 years ago?? It might have something to do with Israeli philosophy. Classical rabbinical literature created the Hebrew phrase “Tikkun olam” (literally, “world repair”). The Israelis seem to have not only realized that the World is broken, but decided to do what they could to repair it.

The innovations in the above list are only a few of the things Israel has done to make the world a better place. They are often first on the scene of major disasters, bringing state-of-the-art mobile hospitals, food, and anything else needed. The list of medical advances is lengthy; Treatments for cancer, Parkinson’s disease, AIDS, epilepsy, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and on and on. 

Their cows produce more milk. Their bees produce more honey.

They rank as the fifth happiest nation on Earth, maybe because they care so much about their fellow man.

On the other hand, it just might be a God thing…

Want to boycott Israel? You might want to read this first:





Israeli flag

For even more empowering technology info, read my new book, “Deciphering the 21st Century,” Available now!

Click here to read all about it.

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The High-Speed Idiot

The first time my husband took the lid off of a computer, he said, “Wow! It looks like a little city in there!” That’s not too far off the mark. If you’ve ever wondered about all those TLAs (Three-Letter Acronyms) having to do with computers, you’ve come to the right place.

In the old days of computers, say about 1959, when your only hope of getting your hands on a computer was going to MIT, working for the Government, or being attached to some similar large organization, the following pseudo- German sign was a common sight in many computer rooms:

Achtung! Alles Lookenspeepers!


Let’s play Global Thermonuclear War.

Das Computenmachine ist nicht for gefingerpoken und mittengrabben. Ist easy schnappen der springenwerk, blowenfusen, und poppencorken mit spittzensparken. Ist nicht fur gewerken by das dummkopfen. Das rubbernecken sightseeren keepen hands in das pockets. Relaxen und watchen das blinkenlights.

In other words… Don’t touch it, you’ll break it!

Today, if only to defend oneself against high-powered computer salesmen,  some knowledge is nice to have.

The city analogy, with streets, warehouses, stores, etc. isn’t bad, but here we will compare a computer with an office. The processor, or CPU, is the guy behind the desk, actually getting the work done. A faster processor will get the work done faster if everything else is equal, but CPU speed alone is not the most important. You only need a really fast CPU (Dual core, quad core, etc.) if you’re recording or editing video, or doing something (Such as some games) that have a lot of cutting edge 3D effects.

The memory, or RAM, is the desk. The larger the desk, the more things can be done at once, and the faster any one thing can be done. RAM is comparatively cheap, and the best upgrade for the money. 2 GB of ram should be considered an absolute minimum for a smoothly functioning machine, and 4 to 6 GB will not be overkill.

HAL 9000 computer

I’m Sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.

Every office needs a filing cabinet, and that’s the function of the hard drive. Here is where all your programs and data are stored. Modern hard drives are huge, starting at about 250 GB and going up from there. For perspective, 1 Gigabyte (GB) is enough room for about 10,000 text emails, 500 high resolution digital photos, 250 songs in mp3 format, but only about 30 minutes of good quality video. Some elaborate programs can take up several GB all by themselves; Windows alone can take up 5 to 20 GB. If you like to collect music and video, get the biggest hard drive you can, and consider having a second big hard drive installed just for your files.

The telephone and intercom on the desk are the computer’s way of communicating with the outside world. The phone is the modem, or communication with the Internet, and the intercom is the network interface, to talk to computers on your local network (other computers within your home or office). Most modern computers have a built in network interface. This will be useful even if you only have one computer; The network jack is the best way to hook up a broadband modem.

The CD and/or DVD drives are like briefcases – ways of getting stuff into or out of the filing cabinet from or to the outside world. Get at least a DVD burner (writer) so you can do backups easily. You can put about 8 times as much data on a DVD as you can on a CD – They’re not just for movies.

A computer is a high-speed idiot in that, while it can follow instructions very rapidly, it can only do what it’s told,

This Unit Must Survive.

This Unit Must Survive.

which is not necessarily what you want it to do. Computers will not take over the world anytime soon, unless we voluntarily put ourselves under their control — Oh, Wait, I think we’ve already done that.

For even more empowering technology info, read my new book, “Deciphering the 21st Century,” Available now!

Click here to read all about it.

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I’d love to hear your comments!

Everyday Chemistry: About Batteries Part 2

Common Batteries Explained

  • Alkaline: The standard drugstore battery. Lots of power for the price. Disposable. Has a shelf life of about 4 years. Work great in high-drain devices, although you’ll buy a lot of them. Ideal for things that are used infrequently or use very little power, such as clocks, thermometers, flashlights, and remote controls. Comes in the common sizes and button cells.

  • Silver Oxide: Higher capacity than Alkaline, long shelf life, only available in button cells. Best for watches.

  • Lithium: A high power disposable battery. Comes in standard AA, AAA sizes as well as an array of Lithium-only sizes. Has 3 times the power of Alkaline. Works much better than Alkaline in cold temperatures. Expensive. Has a 10 year shelf life, making it ideal for emergency kits.

  • Zinc-Air: A button cell battery that has a 1 year shelf life until activated by pulling off a small tab. Lasts about 30 days after activation, whether you use it or not. Light weight. Designed for use in hearing aids, and not useful for much else.

  • Carbon-Zinc: The original disposable battery. Low capacity and short shelf life have made this type almost a relic.

  • Nickel-Cadmium (Ni-Cad): Rechargeable battery available in standard and many other sizes. Inexpensive. Medium shelf life. About ¼ the power per charge of the same size Alkaline. Loses charge in a couple of months. Can be susceptible to memory effect. Has been largely supplanted by Nickel-Metal Hydride.

  • Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMh): The best standard size rechargeable battery. Much more power than the older Ni-Cad batteries. Inexpensive. Long shelf life. Less memory effect. About half the power per charge of a comparable Alkaline. Loses charge in a couple of months. Ideal for high-drain things used on a regular basis. Light weight.

  • Lead-Acid: One of the earliest types of rechargeable batteries. Used in automobiles, but also available in a “Gel Cell” smaller variety that won’t spill. These are used for many electronic applications such as burglar alarm backup and Uninterruptible Power Supplies. Long shelf life, high capacity, no memory effect, low cost compared to other equivalent rechargeables. Holds a charge for months. Cannot be run all the way down without suffering damage. Heavy.

  • Lithium-Ion, Lithium Polymer: The highest capacity rechargeable battery. Comes in proprietary sizes, and some unique non-proprietary sizes used in high-power flashlights and the like. Expensive. No memory effect. 2 to 3 year shelf life. Used in most current camcorders, cellphones, and laptops. Can overheat and cause a fire if damaged or defective. Holds a charge for months. Light weight for the capacity.


This post has been adapted from my new book, “Deciphering the 21st Century,” Available now! Click here to read all about it.

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Captain, we need More Power! About batteries part 1

A battery can come in two basic types: rechargeable and non-rechargeable. In some sizes (Such as watch batteries), there is only one type, and in the common sizes there are several types.

Camcorders, cellphones, portable DVD players, laptops, and some digital cameras, as well as many other devices, have proprietary rechargeable batteries. Some are not user-replaceable. I’d avoid these devices. The battery will last an average of three years, and then you’re expected to trash the device and buy another. If the battery is replaceable, the only choice you usually have is whether to buy one from the original manufacturer or an aftermarket source, and sometimes you get a choice of capacity. The safest and most expensive route is to buy the replacement battery from the manufacturer or an authorized dealer.

If you get a device that uses standard battery sizes, especially AA, you can usually use rechargeable Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries to save money, Lithium AA for longer use, or standard Alkaline if nothing else is available. As you can see, standard batteries give you a lot more options. Don’t use rechargeable batteries in low-power-drain devices such as clocks and TV remotes. You’ll be changing/charging them more often because they’ll go dead from sitting faster than they discharge from use.

While there is very little chance of an aftermarket battery causing damage to your device, the manufacturing quality control could be lower, and you have no way of knowing that, since it may not have a recognized brand name. The most likely problem with cheap aftermarket batteries is lower than advertised capacity or short service life. I am not recommending against buying no-name batteries; I have had enough luck with them to consider them well worth the money, since they often cost ¼ as much as the name brands. Ebay and other online merchants are good sources for these inexpensive alternatives. Sometimes you get lucky if a product is popular enough, and a big name battery manufacturer will make a battery for your product. This is a safe bet, and will still cost less than the “Official” accessory.

Battery capacity is measured in Amp-Hours (Ah), or more likely for electronics, milliamp hours (mAh). The important thing to remember is that 1000 mAh equals 1 Ah, and that higher numbers represent longer run time. A 1500 mAh battery will give about 1½ times the usage of a 1000 mAh battery. This is a useful basis of comparison when shopping for any kind of rechargeable battery. Disposable batteries have these ratings too, but they are normally not published on the package.

Button cell batteries, such as watch batteries, don’t give you much choice. The only thing to watch out for is Zinc-Air hearing aid batteries. You should only use hearing aid batteries for hearing aids, even though some of the sizes are interchangeable with others. Hearing aid batteries used in other devices will give unsatisfactory service. Other than Zinc-Air, button cell batteries come in Silver Oxide, Alkaline, and Lithium types. Lithium is not interchangeable with the other two. Many non-lithium batteries are available in Silver Oxide or Alkaline, the Alkaline being less expensive. For watches or any critical application, use Silver Oxide, for toys and such, Alkaline is fine.

Standard size (AA, AAA, C, D, and 9 Volt) batteries come in several flavors as well. Non-rechargeables come in Alkaline, Lithium, and Carbon-Zinc, although Carbon-Zinc is virtually extinct except for the super cheap ones that come with something you just bought and last about 10 minutes. Alkaline batteries are so superior to Carbon-Zinc that they are now the norm. Thankfully, battery manufacturers are putting shelf dates on their packages now. You should expect fresh Alkaline batteries to keep for at least 4 years. Lithium batteries cost about 4 times as much as Alkalines, but have a longer shelf life and 3 times the power, so sometimes they’re well worth it.

Next time: Common battery types explained – Best types to use in all your devices

This post has been adapted from my new book, “Deciphering the 21st Century,” Available now! Click here to read all about it.

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A Manual on How To Read The Manual

Sometimes it’s very hard to put a thought into clear English, as the following courtroom example illustrates:
By Attorney: When he went – had you gone – and had she – if she wanted to and were able, for the time being excluding all the restraints on her not to go – gone also – would he have brought you – meaning you and she – with him to the station?
By Opposing Counsel: Objection, your Honor! That question should be taken out and shot!

A recent press release from Microsoft said that they had enhanced the reduced functionality mode of Windows. Come again? Does that mean they reduced it more, or reduced it less? This sort of dysfunctional thinking permeates a lot of writing, and product owner’s manuals are no exception.


A lot of manuals are written by only two kinds of people: Engineers that know everything about the product, but can’t explain it in plain English, or professional writers that have a great command of the language, but know nothing about the product. Either way, you’re up the creek, especially since you probably need the manual just to set the clock. While it’s impossible to make the incomprehensible comprehensible, a few techniques may help.


  • Read the entire manual first (Just the English part will do). This is a great way to while away an hour in the bathroom. If the manual is on a CD, forget the bathroom part.
  • Now, read the part pertaining to what you want to do, while in front of the device, and follow the steps as you read them. If the manual is on a CD, print the important parts.
  • Be patient. Some chores, such as programming a Universal Remote Control, can be time consuming. Get comfortable.
  • Use bookmarks and highlighters on important parts.
  • Some manuals are written to cover several models of a product. Make sure you’re reading the part that corresponds to your model.
  • If you don’t understand what the manual is telling you, go back to the beginning of that Chapter. Sometimes the basics are only explained at the beginning.
  • If you don’t understand some bit of terminology, look for a glossary in the back. If there is no glossary, look it up in an online dictionary, or use Google.
  • Look for other paperwork in the box that might clarify things. The manufacturer will often print last minute changes on an easily lost slip of paper. Staple these into the owner’s manual if you find any.
  • If you lose the owner’s manual, most well-known manufacturers make these available on their websites as free downloads. If that doesn’t work, do a Google search for “Make, Model, Owners Manual.” If that doesn’t turn it up, you may have to buy one on eBay, or figure it out on your own.

You can also pose a specific question in Google and often get an answer. Questions such as “Change optical input to TV Panasonic SCR-220” are good. Use the make and model in your Google look-up or you’ll be swamped with useless information. Most of the information obtained in this manner will be in forums. These are written by other users such as yourself, so use some common sense about following their advice. It may not be entirely accurate.
Don’t be afraid to be creative, but heed all warnings in the manual carefully. For instance, you might be able to change a DVD player to PAL TV mode, but now you can’t see the picture, so you can’t even change it back!
Look under “Support” on the manufacturer’s website for changes and updates to the owner’s manual. Manufacturers often have their own forums where owner’s questions are answered.
Sometimes you will find (Surprise!) a mistake in the manual. If this happens, write yourself a note on that page for next time. You can use a Post-It note if you don’t want to write on the manual.