Wednesday, 14 May 2014

George R. R. Martin Still Uses DOS And WordStar 4.0 To Write Game Of Thrones Novels


When most writers choose to write a novel, poem, short story or blog post, they usually go to their internet-enabled PCs and open up Microsoft Word (a program which, according to Wikipedia, “is the most widely used word processing software according to a user tracking system built into the software, which is not built into LibreOffice, AbiWord, KWord, and LyX.” And with many useful features like AutoCorrect and spell checking, it isn’t hard to see how the currently cloud-enabled word processor gets its notability. However, for some writers (like Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin,) old school programs are better than the ones we use today.


In an interview with Conan on his television show Team Coco, Martin tells Conan that he uses MS-DOS (which, in case you didn’t know, came before Windows,) and a currently defunct word processor called WordStar 4.0 (a.k.a the predecessor to Corel’s slowly abandoned WordPerfect suite.) He then explains that he has another, more modern PC which he uses to check e-Mails and browse the web on, while his sidelined and offline DOS PC is strictly used for writing the bestselling novels which he is famous for.  When he was asked why he uses such defunct tools, he simply said that he was happy with what he had and that DOS isn’t as vulnerable as Windows or Linux (he also appreciated that the program "does what [he wants] it to do.") In addition to a virus-free environment, George states that AutoCorrect was simply too annoying to bear (and I know exactly how he feels about that.)


In reality, it’s a pretty good idea to have that type of setup, as most PCs today are vulnerable to potent viruses such as CryptoLocker lurking around on the internet today. Plus, there are no annoyances, like a dancing paper clip or automatic random bulleting, meaning that you could be more productive in front of a computer instead of fiddling with settings. What I would like to know, however, is why he doesn’t use a program like Notepad or WordPad, but instead uses WordStar 4.0 on a computer which has no USB ports.

Did Thomas Edison Really Invent The Lightbulb?

*The photo above is in the public domain, if you want to use it*
In today's era of smartphones, virtual reality glasses and smartwatches,  the lightbulb can be considered a primitive device to most. Merely a tungsten filament wrapped around two pieces of carbon rod (not to mention the vacuum sealed glass dome which prevents it from oxidization,) its simplicity makes it an invention which most people overlook. However, did Thomas Edison really invent it?


How Lightbulbs Work

When power is fed through its metal bottom, the incandescent bulb's filament emits a yellowish (or white,) glow. This is achieved by vacuum sealing the light-emitting components in a glass dome which prevents the filament from coming into contact with oxygen. Once the vacuum seal wears off, the tungsten wire oxidizes and burns out completely.


Enlighten Me

Around 1801, Sir Humphrey Davy (a British electrician,) connected two platinum rods together using a piece of wire. The result? A bright yellowish glow which could illuminate an entire room. Although innovative, Davy's invention was quickly criticized as it required a large battery and platinum, making it unsuitable for mass production. However, he opened up new doors which didn't exist in the past.


The Carbon Craze

After hearing about Davy's idea, many investors crossed their fingers and hoped that inventors could come up with a practical bulb that could be used in a home or office space. So, with motivation to spare, work began on a cheaper source of electrical light. With knowledge that some items heat up when electricity is passed through them, Sir Joseph Swan—an English chemist--based his designs off of that principle, and ended up with a filament that was largely based on carbon paper and platinum (therefore producing a cheaper lightbulb.) And, with the help of Frederick DeMoleyens (which vacuum-sealed the components to protect them from oxidization,) the bulb was patented by J.W Starr and secured for future use.


There was, however, one major flaw with its design. The reasoning behind this was that the carbon filament fell apart after a few electric charges were passed through it. Therefore, the bulb was—no pun intended—screwed.


Edison Enlightens the Idea


After hearing about the lightbulb, Edison saw a great fortune which came from its perfection. Therefore, when he was able to do so, Edison recruited a Princeton University student named Francis Moore in order to help with the bulb's design. It was after Edison recruited Moore, however, that lots of bright ideas came to him.


What Francis noticed was that, if a material had low resistance, it would produce less light and crumble in front of somebody's eyes when electricity was passed through it. Then, after experimenting with many various metals and vacuum strengths, Edison finally came up with a viable, cheaper version of the lightbulb which could be mass produced. With a bamboo and carbon inspired filament, he had done it.


So, Did He Invent The Lightbulb?


If you read about any of the things above, then you should know that the answer to this is one simple, two lettered word-NO. Although he did fine tune the bulb in order to make it a decent source of alternative light, he didn’t really do anything else. However, if you read the story, it’s undoubtedly fascinating to think that, hundreds of years ago, people could have come up with a modern day source of electrical light which is widely used today.








Sunday, 27 April 2014

How Did the Google Logo Get It's Colours?

No matter where you go on the internet, the possibilities of you running into the Google logo are quite high. With a worldwide Alexa rank of one (meaning most visited on a daily basis,) and a whopping two trillion searches which were made in 2013, the silicon valley search giant's power is astonishing to the average person who uses it as an everyday tool. But how did the search giant choose it's colours and pick it's logo design?



The Heydays

In 1997, project BackRub (a.k.a project Google,) was given a go-ahead by Stanford University (a university which also provided a domain and hosting for the once miniscule search giant.) However, in little to no time, project BackRub was renamed and project Google was born. So, with little time to buy, it's first logo was hurriedly put together with an unknown program. However, after more time was found, Google's co-founder Sergey Brin designed a logo in GIMP in order to make the webpage look less horrid.


A New Overhaul

After getting serious about the Google logo, Page and Brin were introduced to a graphic design teacher named Ruth Kedar. "I was teaching design at Stanford University in 1999" he recalled fondly "when I was introduced to Larry Page and Sergei Brin by a mutual friend at Stanford. They were looking at designers to design their logo and website and I was asked to present them with some preliminary design ideas. They liked my approach and design style and I was hired to design both." So, with motivation under his belt, Kedar experimented with multiple logo designs, most of which failed.


After trying to experiment with multiple designs, Kedar settled on the Catull typeface as it was a mix between Sans-Serif and Times New Roman (two fonts which, according to Ruth, were popular for very different reasons.) When asked about the vivid, cheery colours of the logo, he said that they were chosen for the reason of "mimicking child's play." And so, the Google logo was born.


Despite it's plain story, it's still fascinating to learn about Google's humble beginnings. Plus, if you take into consideration the innovation needed in order to create a search engine, the everyday tool which most people take for granted soon becomes bigger and better than even before.

How The Oreo Got It's Name

Photo by Evan Amos, released under the CC0 license
No matter which supermarket you go to, the Oreo cookie is an all-American staple that pleases young and old (a staple which, unfortunately, is also ruined by the ridiculous amount of sugar which Nabisco insists on stuffing it with.) Merely a layer of crème-inspired icing sandwiched between two layers of chocolate wafers, it's simple design can be taken apart and consumed in so many different ways. But how did the Oreo get it's name, and why did it stick to begin with? While the answer may be unclear, there are so many different languages which could have given it the iconic name which many people have come to know and love today:


The First Theory:

During the early 1920s, the Nabisco cookie company tried to invent a cookie which had a layer of sugary icing in the middle and two cookies which held it together.  The result? A snack icon which was rounded at  the top and bottom. Because of it's funny design, legend states that the cookie giant (now owned by Mondelez,) coined the name Oreo as the word Oros stands for "mountain" or "hill" in Greek.


The Second Theory:

After perfecting the Oreo cookie and pushing it onto the market, Nabisco packaged the cookies in a golden box and sold them to vendors who awaited their arrival. Because of the colour of the container, many people have attempted to point fingers at the very first design and tie it in with the French word "Or,” meaning "golden."


The Third (and least plausible) Theory:

Nobody knows why, but legend has it that Oreos were named after the derived Greek word with the same spelling, which still stands for "beautiful." Although corny, most people are still led to believe that this name was thought of by Nabisco.


Even though an answer may not have been reached quite yet, it's still fascinating to see what people have come up with in order to find out the heritage of an iconic crowdpleaser. And, although the answer may remain a mystery, one thing is certain--it doesn't take a genius to linger on the fine taste of sugar and cocoa powder which simultaneously blend together in perfect harmony.





Tuesday, 18 February 2014

TOYS by James Patterson Review-An Unpopular Novel Which Took Me By Surprise

If you chronically read/explore the world of books at your local bookstore/library/eBook shop, then you should be familiar with millionaire author James Patterson, whose Alex Cross and Michael Bennett novels earned him first place on the New York Times Bestseller List for an approximate 200 week span throughout his entire career. And his Sci-Fi/Mystery novel TOYS clearly shows how he became an all star in terms of literature.


Hays Baker-an agent who is also the main character in the book- lived most of his life under the assumption that he was an Elite (a breed of humans which are 99 percent Homo Sapiens and 1 percent robotic.)  But, when Baker later discovers that he's a human, his life takes a turn for the worst, as all of the Elites want to kill him for spreading such a lie. He is then faced with the challenge of protecting humans from mass extinction by Elite president Hughes Jacklin , all while being faced with an entire force of Elite humans who are set to destroy him and his sister, Lucy (who accompanies him on this quest and informs him about what is going on.)

What I Liked:

Unlike other hardcore mystery novels, TOYS makes you feel like a child because of it's  futuristic backdrop. The subliminal message-which is that humans are almost as bad as Elites because they drove multiple species into a hole of extinction-also added a nice touch to it, and made me think about being more cautious in the future.

What Could Have Been Better:

Despite the fact that Patterson's novel made it hard to stop reading, I disliked the title of the book as it diluted the storyline and made it seem as if human toys were responsible for the deaths of other species. Other than that miniscule discrepancy, I thoroughly enjoyed the entire book and hope to re-read it in the future.

Summing It Up

James Patterson outdid himself, which made it hard to put my Kobo Glo down and do something else. It was almost as if he opened up an All You Can Read Buffet and stuck a ladle in my hand, making me want to savour all of the fine choices which were available. I would, however, change the title as it poorly fits the plot of the book.