Macs breathe

A rare lecture by Jony Ive in London back in the late 1990s where he explained that, when you were trying to sleep, the old sleep LEDs of laptops would blink on and off harshly, lighting up your entire bedroom each time which made it harder for some people to get to sleep and irritated people.

They therefore set out to create a more relaxing light which was not so aggressive and seemed more anthropomorphic.

As simple as this may sound, it meant going to the expense of creating a new controller chip which could drive the LED and change its brightness when the main CPU was shut down, all without harming battery life.

Most previous sleep LEDs were just driven directly from the system chipset and could only switch on or off.

Apple carried out research into breathing rates during sleep and used that figure to derive a model for how the light should behave to create the most relaxing atmosphere and make the product seem more human than robot.

IIRC it was introduced with the first plastic iBook G3 and has been with us ever since.


Why do most programmers prefer macs?

This is an opinion by an independent game developer, so it quite unbiased, objective and honest. No influence by a company or a brand to choose or praise any computing choice:

I was a die-hard Windows user & coder. It makes a lot of sense writing code on the OS you write software for and Windows always was my primary target. I used a friend’s Mac for some graphic stuff at times, always disliked it. When I wanted to write stuff for iOS I took the easy path and bought my first Mac, reluctantly so. Also the first time for me using OS X 10.5. It took a few months and I madly fell in love with it.
Think of the Windows registry, BIOS settings, msconfig, etc. Complete waste of time and with each new PC and Windows version it felt I was doing more of it. Enter the Mac and this amazing OS.
The productivity that machine offered was eye-opening for me. It booted fast. It didn’t get slower over time. It woke from sleep in a second. Apps didn’t bog it down. No virus scanners being all egocentric with the machine’s resources. And a great screen, key when you write software.

Apple got me when I was weak, in the most convincing way possible. Now true, things are changing, Apple is making some questionable choices, MS is getting better but that’s not what you asked.
This is how I learned to love the Mac and still do. They are powerful, beautiful and overall they just work, which is what I need.


A water printer

For office workers concerned about cutting costs and environmental impacts, clicking the print button triggers an ongoing internal debate. Many people find reading words on a printed page to be a hard habit to break when the only alternative is reading them on glowing screen.

But given that up to 40 percent of office documents are printed for one-time use, the desire to take in paper-based words versus ink’s relatively high cost and the waste that is generated is an area ripe for change.

Chinese researchers say they may have come up with just the thing to ease the conscience and lower the cost of reading documents on paper. They’ve created a jet printer that uses water instead of ink and a complimentary reusable paper that changes color while it’s moist.

“We all know we are facing many problems. Three major problems are the energy crisis, global warming and ecological and environmental deterioration,” says Sean Zhang, a Jilin University chemistry professor and coauthor of a study on the innovation published in the journal Nature Communications on Jan. 28. “All of these three problems are caused by one main factor: deforestation. Excess paper consumption contributes greatly to deforestation.”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans alone generated more than 70 million tons of paper and paperboard trash in 2011. Total world consumption of paper amounted to 400 million metric tons in 2012, the Swedish Forest Industries Federation estimates.

Zhang says his team has taken a step toward decreasing paper consumption with the water-jet rewriteable paper because it can be printed on and erased a number of times. The paper is made with dyes that are invisible when dry but reveal colors when wet. Water acts as a key for the dye, opening up closed and colorless molecules when it is present to trigger coloration.

Their tests have shown each sheet can be reused at least 50 times. They used a standard desktop printer whose ink cartridge had been refilled with plain water. They also demonstrated the paper’s abilities with a water-filled pen, which temporarily records handwriting in the same way.

“So far, we’ve already achieved four different colors and the prints can last for 22 hours,” he says. “The quality of the water-jet printing is comparable with ink-jet printing.”

In the paper, the authors say they hope to work on improvements. “The legibility and resolution of our current water-jet prints seem good enough for general reading purpose, and we are confident to improve further the color intensity and evenness of our rewritable media,” they write.

Because the paper is reusable and water is significantly cheaper than ink, the researchers say water-jet prints should be one percent of the cost of ink prints per page. They’ve run initial safety tests on the water-reactive dyes and found them to be in the low toxicity range. Extended exposure tests with mice are now underway.

“Even though we are in the electronics stage…people prefer hard-copy reading,” Zhang says. With the water-based printing system, “we are not only saving a lot of money, we also solve the problem of paper waste.