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On Pigeons and Broadband

17 Oct

Photo thanks: Getty Images


There was a time when I got really serious about wanting to train a carrier pigeon. It felt like a really cool idea, to be able to have your personal post-pigeon deliver little love notes to people you love, where ever they are, at home or abroad. When I got into the details of things and started wondering how I would do that, i.e. training the pigeon to go from one place to another when I am completely hopeless when it comes to direction, I tossed the idea into the bin.

In the face of a broadband era, handwritten or typewritten letters take on a digital form. You can stylise your ‘letters’ based on the font face, font type, font colour and background image to give them a personal touch.

In South Africa last year, an experiment was conducted to determine if pigeons are faster in transmitting 4GB worth of data or South Africa’s broadband DSL. The pigeons won wings down.

A repeat of this experiment was conducted in UK recently, this time with 300MB of data. Again, the pigeons defeated latest technology.

Seems like broadband is a hot topic of negotiation even in Australia (and a hot one during the recent Federal Election), in the hopes of bridging the technology gap between the rural and the urban. Australia is no exception to this. Bringing broadband closer to rural Australia has been an on-going concern that even has critical health-related implications. Seems like the issue is more about attracting medical workers to rural areas and broadband being part of these workers’ set of needs.

Training pigeons may take a shorter time (for example, using ready-trained pigeons) than implementing full-out broadband across the country that can cost $6 billion but it seems the issue for rural Australia may be more than broadband alone.


Paypal and iPhone joint venture

10 Oct

Being back to graduate schoolafter 5-6 years of being in the industry, I realised how technology has better served the school system. Stuff like Supersearch on the University of Melbourne library system is really useful when I want to access ejournals to find out what other academics are writing about a certain topic (access for current staff and students only). Hard copy documents are typically image-scanned and archived on backup systems online.

Image scanners these days are able to detect texts and allow readers to copy and paste text easily from a scanned document. This means that the scanner doesn’t just read images but is able to convert the image into a text document. This was certainly not the case when mass consumer-targeted scanners were first released into the market in the 1990s.

Paypal has taken that one step further with its launch of an iPhone app just this Wednesday that allows people to take images of checks and credit them into their Paypal accounts.

Photo source: Getty Images

The popularity of this app is evident. Within 36 hours of its launch, $100k worth of checks have already been credited into people’s Paypal accounts.

Sometimes I get amazed by what Americans do – their ideas are wild yet applicable. The black hat part of me will be concerned about security issues (what if people edit images to change check numbers?) and privacy issues but they tend to have that all sorted out.

In any case, I am certainly looking forward to trying out this new technology when it hits closer to home, since it’s currently only available to U.S. residents.