Friday, June 20, 2008

Ikan High-priced kitchen scanner not quite the needed solution

When I read the review of the Ikan by David Pogue, it made me wonder why such a large, expensive kind of aesthetically clunky device was needed to address a relatively simple problem of automating the development of the weekly shopping list. USB hand-held barcode scanners (even wireless ones!) have been around for a number of years. It looks to me like it should be just a matter of developing the software for a hand-held (and small by comparison) scanner to lookup an item's scanned UPC code in an online database then add the item to a temporary grocery shopping list file. The file could then be sent to a selected online grocery supplier with billing accomplished by a homeowner's user profile. In fact, I would be surprised if such a device didn't already exist and as it turns out it already does and has since 2005 - the Intelliscanner Kitchen companion:

"Introducing the ultra-portable scanner that keeps track of everything in your home with barcode technology.
IntelliScanner mini is everything you need to organize, track, and share your collections. IntelliScanner mini automatically keeps track of books, wine, groceries, comics, DVDs, CDs, games, and other home assets. Just scan the barcodes, plug it in to download, and start getting organized. It's a whole home organization package in one box, for your PC or Mac.

Scan items in your home or around town, then plug it in to organize:

MEDIA (books, DVDs, CDs, and games – just scan for details and cover art)
ASSETS (keep track of important assets, build detailed insurance reports)
WINE (know the details, automatically; track locations, tasting notes, and maturity)
GROCERIES (create shopping lists, track nutrition and what’s in your pantry)
MICS (intuitive comic book collection management, enhanced with barcodes)
SHARE ONLINE (Web 2.0 Publishing and iPhone Sharing lets you browse anywhere)

Smart scanner, smart software, smart organization.
IntelliScanner mini is tiny, portable, and built to travel. With an
included neck lanyard and keychain clip, you can put it on and scan items anywhere -- in your home or around town -- then just plug it in to download.

IntelliScanner mini includes everything you need to scan, organize, and share, now available worldwide at a breakthrough price of just $299.00. [tell me more]"

As you can see, it can also be used to organize a number of other household collections as well. I think this is a far better solution (and much more portable, compact, and affordable) than the solution David reviewed below:

"The mission of this $400 device is to eliminate trips to the grocery store. The hardware component is a bulbous bar code scanner, dressed up in Any-D├ęcor White and mounted on a countertop stand, an undercabinet bracket or a wall mount. It offers a color screen on the front, a laser scanner underneath and a Wi-Fi antenna inside that connects to your home wireless network.

Each time you’re about to throw away an empty container — for ketchup, cereal, pickles, milk, macaroni, paper towels, dog food or whatever — you just pass its bar code under the scanner. With amazing speed and accuracy, the Ikan beeps, consults its online database of one million products, and displays the full name and description.

In a clear, friendly font, the screen might say: “Nabisco Reduced Fat Ritz Crackers 14.5 Oz.,” for example. Now you can toss the box, content that its replacement has been added to your shopping list.

After a few days of this, you can review the list online at — and if everything looks good, click once to have everything delivered to your house at a time you specify.

Maybe it’s not exactly a Food-a-Rac-a-Cycle. But at least it’s the Netflix of groceries."

Monday, June 16, 2008

Japanese use computer tomography to analyze fragile ancient artifacts

It's not often that I get to read an article about both of my personal passions - computer technology and ancient archaeology!

"Archaeologists working at an ancient tomb in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, are taking advantage of a newly developed, computer-based technique that allows unearthed artifacts to be examined without risking damage by physically handling them.

The technique involves first encasing artifacts in medical resin to protect them from harm. Computer-based technology then applies the principles of tomography--the study of the internal structure of solid objects--to generate three-dimensional images that reveal the encased items in great detail.

Okayama University and the Kyushu National Museum, which jointly developed the method, have used it to examine artifacts found at the late fifth-century Shobuzako tomb in Kurashiki.

Excavation work at the tomb last year uncovered an intact stone chamber that contained about 200 original burial items, including mirrors and harnesses.

Researchers at Okayama University applied large amounts of a synthetic resin, originally designed for medical use, to the artifacts. After the resin had solidified, the researchers were able to remove the items in 14 solid blocks, and analyze the treasures contained in each using the tomography software.

The three-dimensional images generated through the analysis revealed minute details of the items--for example, it showed that a mirror was wrapped in several layers of cloth, and its surface was colored with the red mineral cinnabar. Researchers were also able to tell precisely how the iron parts of a harness were combined.

Takehiko Matsugi, an associate professor at Okayama University and archaeologist, said: "Excavation work is extremely demanding in terms of time, expense and researchers' physical strength. This new method enables us to examine artifacts quickly and efficiently, and to make highly accurate analyses and reproductions."

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Bigger Computer Monitors = More Productivity

Apparently using a 24" monitor makes me more productive not just indulgent!

"Researchers at the University of Utah tested how quickly people performed tasks like editing a document and copying numbers between spreadsheets while using different computer configurations: one with an 18-inch monitor, one with a 24-inch monitor and with two 20-inch monitors. Their finding: People using the 24-inch screen completed the tasks 52% faster than people who used the 18-inch monitor; people who used the two 20-inch monitors were 44% faster than those with the 18-inch ones. There is an upper limit, however: Productivity dropped off again when people used a 26-inch screen. (The order of the tasks and the order of computer configurations were assigned randomly.)

The study concluded that someone using a larger monitor could save 2.5 hours a day. But James Anderson, the professor in charge of the study, tells the Business Technology Blog to take that result with a grain of salt: It assumes that someone will work non-stop for eight hours, which no one will, and that the tasks they perform will all benefit from a larger screen, which isnt always the case. But things like moving data between files are ideally suited to bigger or multiple screens. Anderson, who uses a computer with two 20-inch screens and one 24-inch one, recommends that businesses take the time to match employees with the proper size screen based on job requirements.

A caveat: The study was funded by NEC, which makes computer monitors. But Anderson says that it was vetted by the Universitys research board. Also, he doesnt care who businesses buy their monitors from he just wants businesses to realize that the right monitor can make someone more productive. And if a tech department has to buy 500 of the same size in order to get a bulk discount? Buy the biggest ones you can, Anderson tells us. Size matters, he adds." - Originally posted by Ben Worthen