Aérotrain

aerotr1Last week I was on  holiday in France. Driving down from Paris to Orléans on the D2020, I noticed a long raised structure to the east running for several kilometres. It was a few hundred metres from the road so all I could see was a raised platform or aquaduct on stilts. I initially assumed that it was related to the energy industry because the structure passed near a nuclear power station. I thought nothing more about it for a few days and then used Google Maps and Street View to find out that this was an actually the industrial remnants of a high speed transportation experiment called Aérotrain from the 60s and 70s which achieved speeds of over 400 km/h (about 250 mph).

I80_HV_1Generically known as a hovertrain, the Aérotrain used a cushion of air to reduce the rolling resistance of the vehicle, in a similar way to maglevs. Aero engines were used from propulsion, initially with propellors, then turbojets and finally turbofans. A prototype using a linear induction motor was also tested.

The futuristic vehicle on the left is the I-80 HV and is shown on the track that I passed between Ruan and Saran. Able to carry 80 passengers, the I-80 HV established the world speed record for overland air cushion vehicles on 5 March 1974 with an average speed of 418 km/h (259 mph) and a top speed of 430 km/h (267 mph).

This was the brainchild of French engineer Jean Bertin who initially proposed the concept and demonstrated a scale prototype in 1963. Subsequently there were four prototypes built for France and one for the USA which ran on a test track in Pueblo, Colorado.

It’s totally fascinating and there are some comprehensive information resources online including the Association of Friends of Jean Bertin (in French) and Aerotrain.fr (French and English). There are some videos on-line too which show how amazingly futuristic the Aérotrain must have seemed in the 60s. The one below is nearly 20 minutes long. There’s a couple of videos on YouTube too – search for aerotrain.

For a quick 3 minute fix, French pop group Exsonvaldes released a music track with a video about the Aérotrain. There’s brief sequence of the I-80 HV keeping pace with a light aircraft.

State support for the Aérotrain ceased in 1974 and France pushed forward with the TGV for high speed rail transportation. The key benefit of the TGV was that the trains could run on standard rail tracks in urban areas before switching to dedicated high-speed lines in the countryside. Aérotrain needed a completely new infrastructure and the last flight of Aérotrain took place on 29 December 1977.

For comparison, here’s a BBC top five fastest trains. There’s some learning here for Elon Musk’s Hyperloop system.

Multi Trendo is a Huge Waste of Time

Multi TrendoA few months back, I came across an ad in the Gigs section of my local Craigslist. The ad indicated that you could get paid for “reading articles.” As a freelance audio producer, my first thought was that this ad was looking for voiceover talent. I was intrigued by that idea so I figured I’d investigate further. The link in the ad was for a website called Multi Trendo. I could tell that the URL had some trailing stuff on it that looked like an affiliate code. Not knowing exactly what I was clicking, I decided to just manually enter the top level domain for Multi Trendo into my browser’s address bar instead of just using the link that was posted in the ad.

I discovered at the Multi Trendo site that the service has nothing to do with recording audio. Multi Trendo requires users to create an account. From there, they can read a certain number of “news articles” every day and then Multi Trendo will “pay” users for each article they read. Once users have reached a minimum balance of earnings, they can make a request for a payout from Multi Trendo. It was pretty obvious that this website was doing something shady. But it didn’t ask for any sensitive personal information (name, e-mail address only) so I figured there was little to lose in trying it out.

The “articles” available on Multi Trendo are mostly excerpts pulled in thru Google News. Sometimes, you’ll see a complete piece of writing. Other times, it’ll only be partial stories, sometimes with a link back to the source material. Multi Trendo runs a short timer before it’ll let you complete a CAPTCHA and press a submit button as proof that you’ve actually read the article. Each article has a prominent banner ad that hangs over the content you’re supposed to read. Presumably, displaying these ads is the reason for Multi Trendo’s existence.

I viewed enough Multi Trendo articles over the course of a month to slightly exceed the minimum amount that’s required to request a payout. Multi Trendo claims it processes payments thru PayPal, Payza, and Scrill. Having never heard of those last two, I asked Multi Trendo to send my first payment via PayPal. You can probably guess what happened (or, didn’t happen) next.

Nothing. It’s been at least two months. And I haven’t been paid by Multi Trendo, nor have I received any updates on my request. I’m not surprised by this, and I’m not disappointed. Overall, it took only a few minutes every day to look at Multi Trendo’s articles and complete the CAPTCHA’s. But in the end, it really was just a waste of time.

PayPal Clarifies Recent ToS Update

paypal logoPayPal, the ubiquitous money-handling service used by millions of people around the world, came under fire earlier this year after the company posted an update to its terms of service. That update contained language that made it sound like PayPal could (and would) be able to constantly make automated phone calls to its customers. Not surprisingly, people weren’t too happy about the idea of PayPal’s robocalls interrupting their dinner. This news even caught the attention of some lawmakers in Congress.

In a bid to try and reverse the damage caused by this public relations blunder, PayPal sent out an e-mail last week, attempting to clarify the nature of these robocalls:

Unfortunately, some of the language in this update caused confusion and concern with some of our customers about how we may contact you.

To clear up any confusion, we have modified the terms of Section 1.10 of our User Agreement. The new language is intended to make it clear that PayPal primarily uses autodialed or prerecorded calls and texts to:

  • Help detect, investigate and protect our customers from fraud
  • Provide notices to our customers regarding their accounts or account activity
  • Collect a debt owed to us

In addition, the new Section 1.10(a) and 1.10(b) makes it clear that:

  • We will not use autodialed or prerecorded calls or texts to contact our customers for marketing purposes without prior express written consent. Customers can continue to enjoy our products and services without needing to consent to receive autodialed or prerecorded calls or texts
  • Customers can continue to enjoy our products and services without needing to consent to receive autodialed or prerecorded calls or texts
  • We respect our customers’ communications preferences and recognize that their consent is required for certain autodialed and prerecorded calls and texts. Customers may revoke consent to receive these communications by contacting PayPal customer support and informing us of their preferences.

So while these terms do still indicate that PayPal may indeed robocall you, it’ll only happen if they have a specific reason due to problems with your account like potential fraud or to collect a debt. PayPal won’t be calling you to offer new services or upsell you on account upgrades.

Looks like you can relax now if you were planning on adding PayPal’s phone number to your block list.

Solar Impulse to Stay in Hawaii to April 2016

SOLAR2IRREVERSIBLE DAMAGE TO OVERHEATED BATTERIES IN THE SOLAR IMPULSE AIRPLANE PUSHES THE SECOND HALF OF ROUND-THE-WORLD SOLAR FLIGHT TO APRIL 2016

HAWAII, July 15th, 2015 – Despite the hard work of the Solar Impulse team to repair the batteries which overheated in the record breaking oceanic flight from Nagoya to Hawaii, the solar powered airplane of Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg will stay in Hawaii until early spring 2016.

Following the longest and most difficult leg of the round-the-world journey which lasted 5 days and 5 nights (117 hours and 52 minutes), Solar Impulse will undergo maintenance repairs on the batteries due to damages brought about by overheating.

During the first ascent on day one of the flight from Nagoya to Hawaii, the battery temperature increased due to a high climb rate and an over insulation of the gondolas. And while the Mission Team was monitoring this very closely during the flight, there was no way to decrease the temperature for the remaining duration as each daily cycle requires an ascent to 28’000 feet and descent for optimal energy management.

Overall the airplane performed very well during the flight. The damage to the batteries is not a technical failure or a weakness in the technology but rather an evaluation error in terms of the profile of the mission and the cooling design specifications of the batteries. The temperature of the batteries in a quick ascent / descent in tropical climates was not properly anticipated.

Irreversible damage to certain parts of the batteries will require repairs which will take several months. In parallel, the Solar Impulse engineering team will be studying various options for better cooling and heating processes for very long flights.

The University of Hawaii with the support of the Department of Transportation will host the airplane in its hangar at Kalaeloa airport. Post maintenance check flights will start in 2016 to test the new battery heating and cooling systems. The round-the-world mission will resume early April from Hawaii to the USA West Coast. From there Solar Impulse will cross the USA to JFK in New York before making the Atlantic crossing to Europe and then returning the point of departure in Abu Dhabi.

Solar Impulse is attempting a historic first of flying around the world only on solar energy. And while Solar Impulse has completed 8 legs, covering nearly half of the journey, setbacks are part of the challenges of a project which is pushing technological boundaries to the limits. Solar Impulse will try to complete the first ever round-the-world solar flight in 2016 and this delay will in no way influence the overall objectives of this pioneering endeavor.

Please find official statement of Bertrand Piccard (Initiator, Chairman and pilot) by clicking here and official statement of André Borschberg (CEO, co-founder and pilot) by clicking here

Solar Impulse and Omega

IMG_0176Solar Impulse II has made quite the impression on me. For those that are not familiar with Solar Impulse it is an amazing solar powered aircraft, using cutting edge technologies on a mission to fly around the world strictly on solar power. The recent leg from Nagoya Japan to Honolulu Hawaii shattered all sorts of aviation records.

Pilot: André Borschberg, Solar Impulse Co-Founder and CEO Flew 117:52 hours at an Maximum altitude: of 28,000ft in a un-pressurized cabin averaging 61.19 km/h for a total distance 4481 miles to shatter every Aviation endurance record. With a 236ft wingspan (larger than that of the Boeing 747) weighing just 5070 pounds, equivalent to that of a car. The 17,248 solar cells built into the wing supply electric motors (17.5 CV each) with renewable energy. The solar cells recharge four lithium polymer batteries totaling 633 kg each, which allow the aircraft to fly at night with a flight profile that allows them to glide for several hours at night down to a cruising attitude 6-10k then climb and charge during the day to 28,000 feet.

IMG_1354This past Wednesday I tagged along with Omega one of the four main solar impulse partners as they brought some of their guest and local partners in to get a close up view. Two Solar Impulse team members answered questions and talked about the mission of solar impulse. “Solar Impulse’s bold mission of building a solar plane was created to demonstrate how pioneering spirit, innovation and clean technologies can change the world and to encourage people to save energy and promote the use of clean technologies globally”.

omegaI talked with the Local Omega Boutique team and they where excited to share their part in this historic journey. While being the official time keeper of the mission, Omega has also contributed technology that is in the cockpit, components on the motor pylons, and even safety equipment built into the pilots flight suit. In commemoration Omega introduced the new Speedmaster Skywalker X-33 Solar Impulse Limited Edition European Space Agency qualified timepiece. The Speedmaster line has always been popular with aviators.

Two of Omega’s guest where Active Duty US Navy Pilots, they marveled at what André was able to accomplish both sporting Omega Speedmaster timepieces. I commend Omega for reaching out to their customers, and to local businesses inviting them to see Solar Impulse as we all need to become more aware of the power of renewable energy.

Personally I am working very hard towards being energy neutral with 36 solar panels on my home’s roof that held reduce the carbon emissions that my local oil driven power plant produce with the added advantage of not having an electricity bill any longer.

Solar impulse will be flying from Honolulu to Phoenix on its next leg. I encourage you to visit SolarImpulse.com and read the whole story behind this remarkable aircraft.

Celebrating 10 Years of Godaddy as Podcast Sponsor!

godaddyIn June of 2005 I received a call from GoDaddy saying we want to sponsor Geek News Central, that was a monumental day as only 1-2 podcast had established any type of podcast sponsorship’s by then. July 2015 marks the completion of 10 full years of GoDaddy being a sponsor of Geek News Central. Almost everything I have done in the Podcasting space from that day forward was largely made possible by GoDaddy.

I know if their was a Guinness Book of World Records entry for the longest / continuous running Podcast Sponsor GoDaddy and I would own that record outright. No other podcast in the history of the Podcasting space has had the same sponsor for 10 years.

I  tell my audience that GoDaddy keeps the lights on and my family fed, and they truly do. But let me also say that over the years I have had to continue to deliver new customers to GoDaddy for this relationship to have gotten this far. While their have been highs and lows from a new customer acquisitions basis we have always delivered great deals to my audience and at the same time met the ROI objectives of the company.

I know 10’s of thousands of customers use GoDaddy today because they have supported this show, they have shared our promo codes, and found great value in the product offers. I have had no less than 4 separate sponsor coordinators over the years, and each has been magnificent. This relationship has been unique, in that I have had direct access to the entire GoDaddy team providing feedback that has improved their customer service and product offerings. My audience has even asked for specific features to be added to their services which have found their way into the production line.

Some of most exciting campaigns have been helping launch new product offerings like the recent Website Builder launch which is a incredible product for business owners. GoDaddy’s Website Builder makes it easy for almost any business to meet their online goals. Most importantly I use the entire GoDaddy product line on a daily basis, and truly believe in the product that I promote to my audience. Recent marketing changes at GoDaddy has gone a long way to making the ladies that listen to my show take a closer look at their products and services.

I encourage you to look at the full line of GoDaddy product offerings as we start on our 10+ year of having GoDaddy as our primary sponsor. Please check out all of the available offers on our dedicated GoDaddy Promo Codes page.

Most importantly Thank you to the GoDaddy team for the long relationship and I look forward to many years of continued success.

Virtual Currency Stolen With Help From Real World Gun

Bitcoin logoBitcoin is lauded by many as the currency of the future. Supporters say the cryptocurrency is superior to the dollar because Bitcoin is decentralized, allowing the system to stay honest as it’s constantly being authenticated by everyone who uses it. Bitcoin has also developed a bit of a reputation as being the currency of choice for illicit goods and services, mainly because Bitcoin transactions can be difficult to trace, making a true “anonymous” transaction much easier.

But despite all of its futurist appeal, Bitcoin is still vulnerable to some very old fashioned problems, as one man recently learned when he was robbed at gunpoint for $1,100 worth of Bitcoin. It might seem impossible that someone could be robbed in the real world for something that’s essentially virtual. But many Bitcoin users will meet up in person to ensure their electronic transaction goes thru smoothly. It was during one such meeting that a Brooklyn man discovered trading in Bitcoin can be just as dangerous as using cash.

No details have been made public about the specifics of the transaction. But the man went to a prearranged destination and met with another man to make the transaction. There, he was led to a parked car in order to finalize the deal. Once inside, the other man allegedly pulled a gun and ordered the first man to send the Bitcoin. The robber then stole the man’s cell phone and took off.

Fortunately, no one was hurt during the robbery. But the incident shows why it’s important to be safe during any kind of personal transaction, regardless of the currency being tended. Always meet others in neutral, public places such as coffee shops or even police stations. If you’re trying to make an arrangement with someone else and they refuse to do this, they’re probably up to no good.

Tumblr Announces Answer Time

Tumblr Answer TimeTumblr has announced a new feature that has recently been added. It is called Answer Time. It might be Tumblr’s attempt to compete with Reddit’s AMA (Ask Me Anything) as well as other social media platforms that involve a famous person answering questions from the general public. In May, President Obama did a question and answer session about climate change on Twitter.

In order to participate in Answer Time, you need to have a Tumblr account. Tumblr will give people plenty of notice whenever an interesting ask box has opened. Five of them are being highlighted right now. In short, Answer Time enables users of Tumblr to ask questions to famous people who also have a Tumblr account. Tumblr says that Answer Time will include musicians, artists, actors, politicians, and internet personalities.

There are five upcoming Answer Time events planned. Users of Tumblr can ask any of the featured famous people a question right now, and that person might answer it during his or her scheduled Answer Time.

The band Fall Out Boy will be answering questions on June 8. Vic Mensa (rap artist) will answer questions on June 9. Molly McAleer (author and co-founder of HelloGiggles) will answer questions on June 11. Cecile Richards (President of Planned Parenthood Federation) will answer questions on June 12. David Karp (founder and CEO of Tumblr) will answer questions on June 16.

Acer Presents Award Winning Products at Computex

Acer logoAcer has won a number of awards at the ongoing Computex conference in Taipei. Acer’s Revo One RL85 Mini PC has won the Best Choice of the Year award and Best Choice Gold award in the Computer & System category. This product was also recognized for the Red Dot and Computex d&i design award.

Acer’s S277HK monitor won a Best Choice award in the Touch & Display category along with Acer’s Chromebook 11, which earned an accolade in the Cloud Computing category.

The Revo One RL85 Mini PC is a desktop computer that sports a sleek and stylish design. Engineered as an entertainment center, the Revo One has a lot of features but fits into a small form factor, thanks to the thin design and high capacity of its Samsung Spinpoint M9T hard drive. The Revo One also supports up to 6TB of storage and can accommodate up to two 4K displays as well as 7.1 channel audio output.

The 27-inch Acer S277HK monitor is ideal for a premium A/V experience. It features 4K2K Ultra HD (3840×2160) visuals on a frameless screen, a super-fast HDMI 2.0 connection and speakers with DTS sound. Placed side by side, two S277HK monitors offer a nearly seamless viewing experience with their frameless screens. Leveraging IPS technology, the S277HK’s screen delivers exceptional color saturation and stability with 178-degree wide vertical and horizontal viewing angles. The Acer S277HK was designed with beauty in mind, from the sleek aluminum bezel, asymmetric metallic stand and glossy white back panel to the dynamically styled speakers and vents.

The Acer Chromebook 11 features fast connectivity and long-lasting battery life that extends from day to night on a single charge. The Chromebook 11 is great for students, families, and anyone on a budget. It’s also a good option as a secondary device, especially for anyone who uses a lot of the services offered by Google.

No information yet on pricing and availability for these new products from Acer.

GameStop Set to Acquire ThinkGeek

GameStop logoThinkGeek is an extremely popular online purveyor of all things geeky. Recently, it appeared that Geeknet Inc., (ThinkGeek’s parent company) was going to be acquired by Hot Topic. Things have changed, and it turns out that GameStop is now set to acquire Geeknet, Inc. There are those who are breathing a sigh of relief because they weren’t so keen on Hot Topic.

GameStop posted a press release that states that Geeknet has terminated its agreement with Hot Topic. The press release says that GameStop and Geeknet, Inc., “have entered into a definitive agreement under which GameStop will acquire all of the outstanding shares of Geeknet’s common stock for $20.00 per share in cash.”

The press release goes on to say that this transaction has been approved by the board of directors of both companies. It also says: “The transaction has a total equity value of approximately $140 million, including $37 million of cash and cash equivalents as of March 31, 2015.”

What happened to the potential sale of Geeknet, Inc., to Hot Topic? Geeknet, Inc., has posted the same press release as GameStop did. Either one explains a bit more about the situation.

Geeknet also announced that it had terminated its previously announced merger with Hot Topic, Inc. (“Hot Topic”). Following discussion with both GameStop and Hot Topic, the Board of Directors of Geeknet determined that the GameStop transaction represented a superior proposal. Geeknet will pay Hot Topic a termination fee pursuant to the Hot Topic agreement, for which GameStop has agreed to reimburse Geeknet.

Engadget reported that Hot Topic was offering Geeknet $17.50 per share. It is easy to see why a company like Geeknet would want to take the offer from “the highest bidder”, so to speak.

In short, GameStop will acquire Geeknet, (parent company of ThinkGeek and ThinkGeek Solutions). Right now, one can only speculate about what changes will come as a result. I’ve been a long time fan of ThinkGeek and have made several purchases from it. Now might be a good time to use up my remaining Geek Points… just in case.