Thursday, October 28, 2021

Balance Mats for Special Effects, Military and Martial Arts Training?

Ian Bergman, MD,
Balance Mat

Met up with Ian Bergman and some of the team from Balance Mat, over lunch at Madam Lu yesterday. This was the first time I had sat down to eat with anyone since Canberra's lock-down commenced. It was great to be able to sit outside in the sun. The value of this mode of interaction was shown when Craig Davis stopped by on his way to Canberra Innovation Network across the road.

Balance Mat is one of those companies with a self explanatory name which requires some explanation. They are developing a balance mat: you stand on it and it tells you how good your posture is. This has application in medicine, sport, and leisure.  The innovation comes from using fiber optic sensors, to provide a rugged, reliable and accurate unit, with no moving parts.

Balance Mat are exploring markets and applications. It occurred to me this would be of interest to elite military units, as well as elite athletes, for training. It may also be of use for the video special effects industry. Normally stick on sensors are used to show the position of an actor's body, so that thy can be fitted with a virtual space suit, or green scales. However, it would also be useful to know exactly how they are standing. As it happens, Balance Mat are located at the Canberra Technology Park, the home of the local gaming & video special effects industry.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Indian Electric Scooter with Dual Removable Batteries

Indian scooter maker Hero, is offering an electric scooter with dual batteries. As shown in a video review, here are two compartments under the seat to hold two batteries. The scooter can be operated with both batteries installed for maximum range, or one, while the other is removed for charging. 

Battery held in
with velcro strap
This is a good setup, but batteries look very heavy, and likely make up a large part of the cost of the scooter. These are Li-ion 51.2 V, 30 Ah batteries. Perhaps Hero could offer the option of a half size battery, with a smaller charger. The smaller battery could be provided with a removable plastic storage box, to fill up the empty space, and stop the battery moving around. The customer could later add a second half size battery, or a larger one, with a larger charger. 

As the battery is a large investment, it would also be worth providing the option of using it to supply limited household power during a blackout.

ps: There are swap and go designs for interchangeable scooter batteries, such as Gogoro Network, but these all suffer from being proprietary systems.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Beijing Conspiracy by Adrian d'Hage

One way to keep entertained during Canberra's COVID-19 lock-downs has been to visit the street libraries. These are small weatherproof boxes which householders and businesses put out, filled with free books, as well as CDs and DVDs. Recently I found a copy of "The Beijing Conspiracy" by Adrian d'Hage in my local street library. This is an action adventure, with the bonus of being by a local author I have met. The title is misleading, as the conspiracy concerns international terrorists, and agents of the US government, with China just a setting for part of the conflict.

Adrian d'HagĂ© had a distinguished military career (our paths crossed at the Department of Defence), before writing six novels. This second one is a book for our times, featuring a COVID-19 like virus being used as a weapon. 

Very much in the style of Tom Clancy, this novel involves conspiracies at the very top of the US Government, with honest hardworking military and intelligence personnel hampered by duplicitous self-serving politicians. However, in this case the characters are not quite so black and white, with some of the terrorists acting out of a sincere wish to improve conditions for their people, and business people acting more like terrorists.

With this sort of action adventure set in the present day, details are important and I have a quibble over one detail. In the novel the hero visits the impressive headquarters of the Beijing Olympic Games Committee. I spent almost a week there as a guest of BOCOG to provide some advice on the 2008 Olympics web site.  As a recall it was an ordinary office building. The one unusual detail was a security guard in an immaculate uniform standing to ramrod attention in the foyer.

It is always a delight to found someone I know has written a book. In this case it is a relief to find it is a good book, and I will look out for others by Adrian d'Hage, just as soon as the official libraries open again.

Refurbished Dell Latitude E7270 for Learning with Linux

My Acer Aspire E11 was proving too slow for the demands of presenting webinars to students, so I purchased a second hand Dell Latitude E7270. This is a 12.5" laptop, which was a premium product in 2016 and still works well today. 

The E7270 is a sleek black rectangle, with plenty of ports (4 x USB, HDMI & Ethernet), an okay mat screen, back-lit keyboard and touch-pad. The case is apparently magnesium, but has a black rubber non-slip finish. This is the mid-to low end model, without the optional touchscreen, fingerprint scanner, or 4G modem (none of which I wanted anyway). The unit is supposed to be moderately rugged, with a spill proof keyboard (but not the track-pad buttons). This could be handy as I destroyed a previous laptop with a cup off coffee in the keyboard, and leaned on the case of one before that, cracking the screen.

I booted the machine and a fresh install of Microsoft Windows 10 came up, but all I used that for was to shrink the Windows partition, to make room for Linux. Dell sell laptops with Ubuntu installed, so I decided on that. One glitch was that with fractional scaling turned on Zoom became very, very, slow on Ubuntu.

However, I found Ubuntu's default desktop environment too different to the Mint Linux I had been using. So I first tried UKUI, to turn it into something more familiar (which looked familiar but did not work so well), before realizing I could simply install the same Mate desktop environment I had used to with Mint.

Buying a refurbished laptop worked out well. I could not browse in stores due to the COVID-19 lock-down, so had to rely on the reputation of the seller.My unit cost about one quarter the new price, refurbished by Australian Computer Traders, and purchased through Kogan. The package arrived on time, looked brand new (with a genuine Dell power supply) and worked straight out of the box. The laptop I got is about twice the speed of a new unit this price, but in a more premium case. Also it makes me feel good to be adding less e-waste to the world.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Digital COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate Online Proved Impossible

I thought booking a COVID-19 vaccination was difficult, but getting the digital vaccination certificate afterwards is proving more difficult. I had assumed I could simply go to Medicare online. However, that requires a My.Gov account with an exact name match. My medicare card has the name I am usually known by on it, and doesn't match what is on my birth certificate. So I called the Medicare number to have it changed. After 30 minutes on hold I was told that I needed to talk to Medicare (which is who I was calling), and was put on hold again. The automated system said I could change my details online, but I was calling so I can get online, making the messages very annoying.

The recorded message at the start was curious, warning that threats would not be tolerated. That seemed an odd way to treat customers, with a greeting threatening them. But after one hour on hold, I can see how a caller could be irate by the time they get to an operator. As it was, after an hour I gave up.

I would be happy to deal with this matter some other way, but no other option is offered: it is by phone, or nothing. I suggest the system needs to be fixed to overcome this obvious fault.