Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Using your LAN/ home WiFi to receive and make normal landline telephone calls

I came across this design when working out another invention involving triggering an automatic Skype video call from a normal landline telephone handset.

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I’m amazed that it seems no one has designed such a system… its really simple. The idea is that you use your home network to connect standard telephones around your house rather than using a traditional wireless phone system.

In this model, the incoming telephone call gets converted to network packets and then is picked up by a de-converter box on the network that sends the traditional analogue signal onto a traditional handset.

Why would someone want to do this? Well wifi has a better range than normal telephone wireless and running cap5 through your house just makes more sense than running telephone lines as well.

In my case however, I am thinking of another application where the telephone is used as a simple control system for network devices. For example I want to allow my parents to call me using a normal telephone and when they type #77 on their phone a special purpose laptop will automatically start a Skype video conference session using our two telephone numbers to connect a corresponding two Skype accounts.

It’s all part of an experiment in elegant dumbing-down and simplification of devices we use every day to make them more inviting to end users who all want their lives to be less complicated.

Ric’s Invention Development Process

Over the years I have developed an invention/ business development process that is the fastest way I know to getting some success and also maximizing momentum where as little energy as possible is needed to keep things moving forward.

The process is geared around what I feel is the most important aspect of a projects success… the person driving the project. In my case I as the inventor drive the conception to angel funding cycle and then a proven CEO is chosen to drive from angel funding to market entry. The steps are explained below the pyramid picture.

Conception: This is where the initial idea is explored and conceived. This is where I flesh out the idea and see if its worht persuing… it is also where I do research to find out what other people have done in the space and also try to captivate what it means to the end user… who is the end user and why they would want to use this invention? Conception usually ends with me crystallizing the most important parts of the invention down into 3-5 drawings… these are the basis of the next stage namely patenting.

Patenting: Usually this involves a provisional patent filed in the US… keep it simple… if its worth patenting it should be clear and simple to understand even if the underlying invention is very complex. Novelty (a critical basis for patentability) will stand out more if you don’t try and hide the inventions function in a whole lot of tech speak and complicated drawings. I patent early to enable me to speak openly and freely about the invention as I build the next phase namely prototyping.

vPOC/ POC/ Prototype: Once the project is legally protected Ric will set about doing either a virtual proof of concept, a proof of concept or a prototype to prove the invention.

In general terms when this is referred to in connection with Ric's development process, a proof of concept will refer to a prototype that will only work when supervised directly by a demonstration operator. It's only for situations where a one off demo is needed but NOT where unattended use of the prototype is required on needed. A prototype on the other hand generally refers to a proof of concept that can run unattended without operator intervention such as on a public web site or a public test lab.

Publicity: Following this there is a publicity campaign to get some recognition for the project. This stage has four purposes:

  1. To gauge what interest there is in the project to the general public and specifically to the users who will eventually be targeted for the invention.
  2. To refine how the project is positioned and explained to better communicate the underlying idea.
  3. To lay claim to the invention space putting other people and especially competitors on notice that you are formally making a stake. This may unearth patents you don’t know about which may be disappointing but it’s better to know sooner rather than later… it also means that you have only lost a provisional filing fee, not the full time and effort of a full patent application… and;
  4. Allows the project to attract possible partners, customers and investors BEFORE writing the business plan.

Business Plan: Publicity is followed by the building of a business plan to prepare the project for packaging as a fully fledged business requiring…

Angel funding and the selection of a CEO to take the project to market. Further reading about the principles Ric uses can be seen in this article on his blog.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Researching social network flaws and privacy conundrums

While researching social networks to explore ways to build in easy privacy capabilities and protections I ran into some really interesting open source social network projects.

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I found Diaspora which is a peer-to-peer social network engine at another interesting site called kickstarter.com where the project leads asked for $90k in funding support and got $200k! What a great idea.

image Another worthy project of mention is OneSocialWeb which also is an attempt to bind multiple soical networks around your own identity.

My own research shows that accountability needs to be built into the system for it to work but the trick is to still retain a level of privacy where there is not some arbitrary identity authority riding rough shod over the network.

I definitely feel there is a good patent in this approach…

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Remotely update song lists in your car MP3 player from your home WiFi

This little project is about having an MP3 player in your car that can be seen on your wireless network so that you can update play lists and mp3s from your home network without having to plug and unplug devices from your car stereo.

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Well, that’s what this project is about. Just make sure a wireless repeater or your wireless router is near as possible to wherever you park your car.

Next, buy an MP3 player that is wireless capable such as the Creative Zen X-fi  that allows your network to find it and update songs and play lists. The final trick is to find a circuit in your car that is always on such as the cars lighting circuit… you want the player to stay on so you can see it on the network from inside your home… the power draw is not that great unless you plan to leave your car in the driveway for a month without using it and you can always just turn the player off when you don’t intend to update the music list for a while.

Just permanently attach the player to a good place on your dash with a permanent connection to your car stereo and you are away.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Australia’s NBN (National Broadband Network) – right idea, wrong pitch

When I first came home from the States I was asked by a friend of mine (the famous writer Di Morrisey) what I thought of the NBN. It was news to me at the time being newly repatriated but my first impressions are still valid.

A faster connection to the net doesn’t mean much… you need to have a hook, an angle… a killer app that helps everyone just… GET IT.

image Thru a mutual friend MP Janelle Saffin I was privileged to actually get to meet the Minister for Broadband Stephen  Conroy and give him some feedback from my experiences in the US working on and with some optical fibre installations.

When I asked him about what he thought broadband meant for Australia he talked about fast XRAY transmission and new age business practices but none of that really gelled with me as being necessary for optical fibre. In fairness to him, he has to have a pitch that addresses all the special interests that really could benefit from fibre, but in addressing everyone's needs the message often gets diluted.

In my mind, the one thing you can do with fibre that you cant do with high speed wifi or satellite is full HD, full rate glorious real time video… not Skype, but full size full speed face to face video.

THIS, once you have used it and become addicted to it, is THE reason to have optical fibre. THIS is the KILLER APP, the most visible plus… the raison d'etre.

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Cisco Telepresence system worth $100k plus

When you see other people in video at full size, where their face and hands are at the proportion you would see in a real conference room video conferencing takes on a whole new meaning.

If your Dad or your grandchild can be seen across the dining room table in the same size they would be if they were sitting at the table, things completely change.. no delay, no sense of pressure due to cost, full motion… just relaxed face to face time… then you will start to know what optical fibre means.

Having dinner together, showing each other stuff, talking about your day…

And what about customer service… what about being able to talk to the Telstra guy about your account, him seeing you and you seeing him… or your doctor…

The days of a sweatshop customer service centre in Bangalore are over if Australians expect to see an Aussie answering their support and billing questions… but that’s what they’ll do once they get a taste of full screen service.

Want to get your license renewed? Want to ask for help regarding your bank account? Now all the stuff you travel in the car to do will make more sense and be a lot more convenient with hi-res full screen full motion video conferencing….

THAT IS what the NBN should mean for Australians.

Alternatives to Rail Trucking and why they are not as good

Since I started talking about Rail Trucking, a number of helpful souls have suggested that the idea has been done before. These suggestions haver included hi-rail 4WDs and trucks and RoadRailers.

Hi-Rail

The Hi-Rail concept (see wikipedia) alternatively called the Road Rail Vehicle has been around for some time.

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This example is from a Tasmanian scenic tour company that uses some rail line is the centrepiece of their tours.

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Below are some example from the Wikipedia section on Road Rail Vehicles.

hi_rail_&_flattop_300

Why Railtrucking is better: Besides the fact that the design seems to be geared to short distance slow speed rail use, what kills this approach is the fact that the bogey wheels are permanently attached to the vehicle and a considerable amount of weight and inefficiency is wrapped up in the hydraulics that lift the vehicle up once it is over the rails. With Railtrucking the bogey is left trackside for others to use. The weight of the bogey does not effect the fuel efficiency of the vehicle when it is used on the road.

Additionally, while it seems at first blush to be a great idea to have the car tires drive the vehicle while on the rails, this would quickly make the tire unusable when used for any distance as a wear line would make tire wear uneven and dangerous. With RailTrucking the whole tread of the drive tire is used for driving and braking.

Roadrailer

Roadrailers are semi truck trailers that are fitted with rail bogeys so that they can be drawn along in a normal engine driven train

Why Railtrucking is better: Roadrailers underscore one of the main reasons that the system has to avoid the traditional reliance on railway carriage coordination. With Roadrailers, you still need for the whole train to stop at its destination and then coordinate decoupling and disconnecting of the Roadrail enabled trailers before you can connect it to a semi and get on with the road based element of goods delivery. The benefit is mildly better than having a container shipped on a train flat car.

With RailTrucking the whole truck travels the rail and the truck driver can determine when they leave the rail. The drive-on, drive-off design of the rail bogeys mean that the truck spends almost no time transitioning from road-based to rail-enabled and back.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Rail Trucking in your own car

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The ultimate vision for Rail Trucker is personal rail trucking. You pack to go on your annual holiday and drive a little north of your city to a rail on ramp. You drive across a pit that allows mini rail bogeys to roll up and under your car in one smooth action. The drive wheels of your car are now driving rail wheels.

You wait for a little green light to tell you to join the main line north. You gently accelerate to 110kph/ 60mph, set the cruise control and get comfy. Your own engine and brakes control the car.

A rail-side wifi system tells your iPhone when there are delays and upcoming level crossings or off-ramps. If you want to watch a DVD just use a mini radar and laser warning system to tell you when animals/ vehicles or any other moving thing is on or near the track.

Feel like a break? Book the next off ramp on your iPhone. The tracks are switched to send you off to the side rail. As the rail wheels follow a piece of track that goes down into a little pit, your car tyres again take the weight of the car and you head off for a bite to eat and a little quiet time before hitting the road… er rails again.

No traffic jams, no trucks, no headaches.

Want a really easy ride? Catch up to a convoy heading north and using an automated coupling connect to the back of the convoy of cars and trucks and let the lead vehicle dictate the speed and braking… a special rail control device automates driving for you.

This and more is Rail Trucker.

Also coming… what about emergencies, want to get off the track fast?… what about safety… how to get multi car efficiencies… cant we join a meal cabin and just tow the car? What about the level crossing nightmare?

The only thing wrong with the photo? With real rail trucking the driver would not need to have hands on the steering wheel, the rails do it for him!

Other articles on Rail Trucking:
RailTrucker overview
Turning trucks into mini rail cars

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The day Geoff Eldridge from Australian Dirt Bike died.

I don’t remember what I was doing but I remember the call I got that Geoff had been in an accident. Jumped in my car for a quick drive to the ADB offices in Brookvale.

Wayne Brady was there with the crew waiting to hear from Vicki (Geoff's missus). The news came, Geoff was dead… some idiot in a 4wd had got onto the race circuit thinking it was a dirt access rode and Geoff had gone into his bull-bar on a blind corner in the lead at top speed.

I’ve never had a wheel detach from its hub, but that’s what it felt like. The hub of ADB had just broken away from every spoke… I felt sooo very sorry for Vicki… got to speak to her on the phone… she seemed so in control, but I knew in my heart she was covering her shock… it must have been horrendous for her to be there without everyone. For me, I wrestled with that feeling of loss that makes you feel like you need to throw up… the ADB magazine crew with Wayne and I just sat in the gutter opposite the ADB office in stunned silence for what seemed like ages, then the calls started and people calling in to find out the details.

I really felt like jumping on a plane to go comfort Vicki but she was already making plans to get her and Geoff's body back home…. besides I wasn't family even though Geoff made me feel like a cousin…

Later Vicki gave me the honour of looking after Geoff's backup KTM for the Six Day Enduro in Cessnock… it had all Geoff's favourite mods but more importantly it was a reminder of Geoff every time I rode.

Riding with Geoff Eldridge of Australian Dirt Bike Magazine

So many visitors to this site are here to read about Geoff I decided to add a few stories about Geoff to keep his memory alive. My friendship with Geoff started when I was invited to ADB to do some work on their Mac systems back in the early 80’s. After being razzed for my weight problem, I was quickly invited into the fold. Geoff let me have a loan of his trusty old KDX 250 and quickly after seeing that I actually could ride he let me buy it off him for a bargain. Within a week he had given me boots and gloves and pads.

The loop “at the top of the world” near the ADB offices was a 12k testing ground that I was hell bent in getting around faster and faster. The first time around it took 36 minutes. A 4 wheel drive guy I say took over an hour… lots of rocky climbs, ledges and a creek waterfall that you had to get up!

After about three weeks of practise it was time for me to ride with the guys from ADB… the fastest lap I had done was 18 minutes by this time.

I can still remember the first ride. Geoff had some close friends he rode with and somehow I got to be included.  Terry Schulze arrived on his KDX 200 with his garbage bag raincoat and Wayne Brady and Geoff and I all trailering into the staging spot in his car at the south end of the circuit/loop.

Terry just flew on his KDX 200. It was a bloody fantastic experience. Geoff was so smooth and fluid, Wayne just jams it and Terry just made it look so easy. Of course I was the last guy, but actually kept up with them because I could follow their lines… down some 2 foot drop away rock ledges to some thick sand a shale drop away and a cheat 60 degree cliff shortcut to a creek crossing and woopdy doos before a rocky creek and up a waterfall… I was following Wayne and going way too fast to stop when he bounced off two rocks before hitting a waterfall rock ledge about two feet up before having to ride near vertical up another 3 foot of rock face to get over the top…

I held on for grim death and it worked.. hit the bash guard hard but made it… every other time I came to this spot I got off and physically lifted the bike up the 4 feet….

To top things off Geoff and Terry had got up the waterfall and got off their bikes to watch me come a cropper (or help me lift the bike up if I piked out in disgrace).

As it happened I followed Wayne who stopped to watch me crash but sailed right past them and powered up the next section of the track… it was one of the best moments I ever had riding….

But it probably cost me a lot in that they never slowed down for me after that… I always felt like I was going to kill myself when riding with those guys… they travelled sooo fast, but beautiful to watch… every turn was a graceful power slide, always on their pegs and smooth.

I think that was the first and only time I was first to the rock we used as a start end point for our loops, the place called the “top of the world” where we later left a little piece of Geoff after his funeral.

After riding with those guys I used to do the loop in 12-14 minutes and felt like I was defying death. For them it was a fun trail ride.

I remember another time when Geoff Ballard came down for a serious run and everyone (except me) was doing sub 10 minute runs with the two Geoffs doing 8 minuters…. Geoff Ballard got and held the record to Geoff Eldridges great distress.. ha.

No ride was complete without the mandatory after ride wash up, maintenance and obligatory beer in the ADB driveway… what a sad loss…. but makes me think I should track down Terry and Wayne.. will have to lose a lot and get riding really hard before I could ride with them again.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Reposting from the States to Australia

image  Why is it that if the AU dollar is at 90 cents we pay twice the rate Americans do?

I checked FEDEX and UPS for a 7lb 2 terabyte hard drive that cost me $200 US to buy and the shipping quote was $160 USD!

Plus Amazon won’t ship computer hardware to Australia probably due to grey marketing rules.. so what are we to do?

Well one lurk I have come across is the US Postal service package rate (see the picture) which shows under 20lbs at $40 and under 4lbs at $14.

So what can you do? Well ideally Id like to set up an Aussie remail service where you ship your stuff to a US address then it gets repackaged and sent using the US Postal discount rate… Im going to try this out by sending multiple items to one of my US companies and having them put them all in one box to send to me for the <20lb rate of $40. For that I reckon I can get a 2TB network attached storage device, an iPhone 4 and an iPad for less than $40 in shipping… now that sounds a little better.

Rail Trucker – converting trucks into light rail vehicles

railtrucker

This project is really starting to get some legs. I’m still in the process of exploring what to patent but its getting real exciting that something like this could really eventuate. The basic idea is to put light weight rail bogeys under a truck in such a way as to allow the trucks own drive train and brakes to move and stop the truck.

The next phase which I’m nearly through is getting the truck on and off the rails without using jacks or lifting systems… I came up with something pretty snazzy and will show you once its locked down and patented.

Next after this I have been looking at electronic support systems for such a setup. Things like radar and laser devices for rail level crossings and animals on the track, rubber bogey wheels for quietening down traffic on railway tracks… and traffic management for all the trucks, commercial vehicles and cars that may want to be travelling the rails once this thing gets going… can you imagine it…

…get on the rails in Sydney, get off at Port Macquarie for a bit of a look around, back on until Coffs Harbour… the whole time on cruise control watching a DVD and looking up now and again to check a warning from the radar or laser box that tells you an animal is near the tracks or that a level crossing is coming up. Sign me up…

Monday, June 7, 2010

What is newsworthy?

I had an interesting discussion with a leading Australian technology journalist the other day and the subject of news-worthy-ness came up.

He made an interesting statement that people don’t want to know what will be coming tomorrow but rather what they can try out, or get today.

The subject came up when I quizzed him about how baked a new technology has to be before it can get a decent headline. His answer basically said, if your not ready to sell it then don’t go for publicity… well I for one think there is something wrong with that and yet I find it completely understandable.

I think it’s wrong in that newspapers are full of stuff about the future… government tax strategies, market movement, economic predictions and the environment… all about the future. So what is wrong with discussing a technology coming down the pipes for the next 3-5 years?

But then again newspapers would be filled if they felt responsible to report every new idea or concept being spouted by the hundreds of new entrepreneurs and businessmen wanting publicity for their new product idea or concept.

I suppose it takes a big reputation like Thomas Edison to get the big publicity. A reputation that says “if I show you a prototype today, you can bet your bottom dollar a full scale product is going to be coming out within a year”.