IED blast in Afghanistan inspires ex-Green Beret to reinvent two-way radio

Boy. The brand new Two way Radio is awesome. I mean it’s just so beautiful so sophisticated. I pity those who grew up without the Two way Radio.

U.S. Army Special Forces Sgt. Tom Katis was headed through the mountains from Asadabad to Jalalabad in Northeastern Afghanistan to catch a plane out of the country for a week of leave in January 2003 when 70 pounds of plastic explosives buried in the road detonated directly under the lead vehicle in his convoy, setting off an ambush.

Shooting erupted from the reeds along the Kunar River, and Katis found his crew switching among numerous radio channels to call in air support and a medical helicopter for two wounded soldiers, as well as to update his commander and coordinate with nearby units.

Tom Katis

“I had to take guys off team frequencies to monitor empty traffic. All of a sudden, the team was not on the same frequency,” said Katis. “We all had radios that cost $15,000 each, and we’re yelling at each other.”

At that moment, Katis decided that even when operating as designed, radios were too difficult to use in combat. Live-only microphones caused missed connections. Choices had to be made quickly between satellite and line-of-sight systems.

That trauma was the kernel for Voxer, a San Francisco-based “push-to-talk” smartphone application developer that Katis co-founded in 2007 and hopes will take a big chunk of the multi-billion-dollar two-way radio hardware and services industry.

After finishing his second Army tour in 2003, Katis immediately co-founded a private security firm called Triple Canopy that has grown to 8,000 employees by catering to military, government and corporate customers around the world.

The radio idea stuck with Katis, however, who had worked a stint at a startup in Silicon Valley from 1999 to 2001.

“The first thing that was obvious was that everything needed to go on the Internet,” said Katis, a graduate of Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in ethics, politics and economics who interrupted his business career to re-enroll in the military after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

At Triple Canopy, Katis in 2004 met Matt Ranney, who became Voxer’s co-founder and CTO. What they and early Voxer employees later created was an Internet-based hybrid between a walkie-talkie and a group messaging application that enables users to talk live or send voice, text and photo messages that can be retrieved at will, all while displaying individual users’ locations. Venture investors to date have funded their efforts with $30 million.

It’s a deceptively simple system, according to Gartner, but Voxer has received 126 patents around the world to protect its inventions, which Katis says provide a platform for significantly improving communications in the private sector and government.

In May 2011, Voxer released a free version of its app and, though it was initially slow to catch on, it exploded to nearly 70 million users by 2012.

At that point Voxer had to choose whether to focus on the consumer app and generate money through advertising or some other vehicle — a vision that many other entrepreneurs were chasing — or try to build a communications product that businesses and governments would be willing to buy. For Katis and his cohorts, the choice was clear.

“A free consumer app was not going to solve the problems we want to solve,” said Katis in an interview in Voxer’s San Francisco headquarters in the historic Phelan Building on Market Street. “I think I can build a much bigger company than that. This is a hundred-billion-dollar industry that I think we can go and take a very meaningful piece of.”

Katis still loves and intends to keep the free app, but Voxer turned its attentions to building more sophisticated features, including encryption, a web-browser-based version for administrators, an installed appliance that companies or government agencies (think three letters) can run themselves and a function that mimics the way two-way radios squawk out transmissions in real-time.

Voxer launched a roughly $10-a-month-per-user business version in June 2013 and, while Katis says the first year was very much a learning process concerning how to make corporate sales, the company just scored its biggest customer yet, the North American division of a major international automobile manufacturer, the identity of which it cannot yet make public. In addition, Roto-Rooter, the national plumbing repair business, in April started to roll Voxer out to about 900 people, a quarter of its field staff, and Voxer has trials underway with various U.S. agencies.

Most of the sales to date have been to companies that asked to upgrade from the free app, said Katis, adding that the company is now hiring in sales and marketing.

One inbound customer was Chris Marino, owner of Xtreme Snow Pros, a snow removal service in Mahwah, N.J., who used the business version last winter for the first time after testing out many different two-way radio systems. Most of the other systems required hardware purchases were more expensive and less versatile, he said.

Marino’s staff balloons during snow season from five to 70 employees with seasonal help, and Voxer lets him communicate with each one individually or all at once from his desk.

“Voxer Business was an incredible asset to us,” Marino said. “It’s a truly great product.”

 

What Headset Fits My Bike?

The headset of a bicycle is, in simplest terms, the part of the bike that allows the steering column and front wheel to rotate and turn. It is, therefore, fairly important to the general running of a bike (as we’re sure you’ll agree!)

A bicycle headset generally consists of two cups that are pressed to the top and bottom of the headtube, there are bearings inside the cups that provide low friction contact between the cup and the steerer. This setup allows the rider to be able to steer and operate the bike with maximum efficiency.

Today’s bikes use lots of different headset styles, so we’ll take you through a few of the most common ones (because we’re nice like that).

  1. Threaded Headsets – These headsets are the most simple and ‘classic’ of all headsets. They were once nearly ubiquitous, but times have moved on since then. According to ParkTool.com, “The “threaded” in the name refers to the external threading at the top of the fork steering column. Bearing cups are pressed into the bike head tube. The bearings, which may be loose ball bearings, retainer ball bearings, or cartridge bearings, sit above and below the pressed races. The top most bearing-race has internal threading, and is held in place by a threaded locknut. The stem has no effect on the headset adjustment”.
  2. Threadless Headsets – Threadless headsets are actually quite similar to their threaded cousins, with one major difference (and you’ll probably see this one coming), there is no threading. According to ParkTool, “The top race uses an internal centering sleeve on the column to maintain alignment to the bearing cup. Pressure is applied to the top race from the stem. Threadless Headsets must use a compatible stem that matches the steering column diameter. The stem binds to the outside of the column, and holds the top race in adjustment. The threadless standards are 1-inch and 1-1/8 inch diameter steering column.”
  3. Low Profile Headsets – Alternately known as ‘Integrated Headsets’, ‘Internal Headsets’ and ‘Zero Stack Headsets’ (amongst others), these headsets use pressure frame cups to secure the bearings. “The cups have a flange, or lip, and sit adjacent to the outer edge of the top and bottom of the headtube. The headtube is a relatively large outside diameter, approximately 50mm, and cups allow the bearings to sit flush or even inside the headtube. The headset bearings sit “internally” to the top and bottom of the headtube. Some models use a cup that holds a cartridge bearing. The cartridge bearing is a slip fit into the cups. The cups act as a bearing holder and do not take bearing movement or wear directly. Other types have the cartridge bearing and cup/holder as a unit. These are simply replaced as a unit when it is worn out. Still another version of this type uses a cup and cone system with caged ball bearings, similar to the conventional threadless headsets”.

Of course, its up to you to decide which of these styles best suites you and your bike.

SOURCES

http://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help/headset-standards

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Headset_(bicycle_part

What is Communications Technology?

Broadly speaking, the term ‘communications technology’ can refer to any technology that allows its users to communicate with one another. Using this (admittedly loose) definition, two-way radios and mobile phones fall into the category of ‘communications technology’.

The term also refers to computers and computer-related work. Here in the UK, schoolchildren study a subject called ‘ICT‘ this stands for ‘Information and Technology’ (although when this rapidly ageing writer was at school, it was known simply as ‘IT’ or, ‘Information Technology’).

As the Internet has become a more and more prevalent part of our society, communications over longer distances have become significantly easier. In fact, such communications are easier now than at any other time in Human history. Ergo, it stands to reason that computers should be considered as a prime form of communications technology.

communications technologyBasic, everyday acts such as checking your emails, updating your Facebook or Twitter feed, answering the phone, or taking Skype calls are all a part of ‘communications technology’ as are the two-way radios used by public transport, security firms and the emergency services.

A person who makes a living by working with ‘comms tech’ is likely involved in the designing, creating, implementing or maintaining of communicational systems. Such systems can include radio networks, mobile phone providers, telephone companies, even television. It is a broad and ever-expanding field, which makes it difficult to ascertain exactly what a person actually does if they list it as their job title.

When somebody tells you that they are a plumber, for example, you get a broad idea of what they do for a living all day. If I tell you that I am a professional copywriter, you at least have some notion as to what that entails. A person who works in the field of ‘comm tech’ could be doing almost anything.

In case you’re wondering, the Internet itself can be considered as a communication technology, given that any person who uploads videos or writes blogs is communicating the very second that those blogs are read or those videos are watched.

Telecom’s is a huge field and, as I think you’ll agree, a pretty important one. Without the ability to communicate with others, either via short distances on your mobile or much longer distances (such as the distance between our office in the UK and your home on the African continent), this world would be a vastly different place.

Why Kevlar Is Stronger Than Nylon?

You mean besides reinforcing the tyres on the Batmobile? (True Bat-Fact – look it up).

For those not in the know, Kevlar (or Poly-paraphenylene terephthalamide, to give the material its scientific name) is a very tough and durable man-made fibre. It was first developed in 1965 by Polish-American scientist Stephanie Kwolek and has been commercially used around the world since the early 1970’s. Today, Kevlar is available in several grades, which are used for different tasks and exhibit greater, or lesser, tensile strength as well as flexibility and tenacity.

Since its introduction in 1971, Kevlar has been used for body armour (i.e. bullet proof vests), army helmets/protective gear, car and bicycle tyres (I once had a set, actually), protective clothing, paraglider suspension lines, shoe tread, headphones, musical instruments (strings and drumskins), fire resistant clothing, kitchenware (for its non-stick properties), cables and ropes, brake pads in cars, smartphone casing and even wind-turbines.

According to DuPont, Kevlar’s parent company,

“It’s about resilience, strength, saving the day, and helping keep people safe from harm —DuPont™ Kevlar®. DuPont™ Kevlar® aramid fiber is used to make a variety of clothing, accessories, and equipment safe and cut resistant. It’s lightweight and extraordinarily strong, with five times the strength of steel on an equal-weight basis. Best known for its use in ballistic and stab-resistant body armor, Kevlar® brand aramid fiber has shown its own heroism in helping to save the lives of thousands of people around the world. And since its invention over 40 years ago, things have only gotten better. DuPont™ Kevlar® continues to take on new challenges, with our scientists continuously innovating and working on a range of new opportunities through collaborations with communities, industrial manufacturers, and governments. Together we’re bringing the strength and durability of Kevlar® to so much more. The result? Kevlar® aramid fiber is now successfully used in everything from vehicles and industrial clothing to fiber optics and city roads. And we’re only getting started”.

The discovery of this wonderful material is actually quite an interesting story. Back in 1964, Kwolek’s group was searching for a way to make tyres stronger, but also a little bit lighter. Apparently, the by-products of their solutions were usually thrown away, but Kwolek saw potential in one of them, as it had formed a type of liquid crystal, something that had never been seen in their polymers before. She tested the strength of the new material and discovered that it was extremely strong. The rest, as they say, is Wikipedia.

Oh, Happy New Year, by the way! :)

Images from the Web 03

For our next round of pictures we have, some funnies that have recently come up…..

 

 

 

 

 

thanks for looking!

Voxer Launches Easy Talk Widget on Android, Allowing Quick Access to Walkie-Talkie Chats

Article of the Day………ok so i haven’t got an article each day, but when i get an opportunity I’ll post posts I find fascinating. Lucky enough here is one of these articles that I read and needed to share. If you enjoy it as much as me, please add one of those special social media likes, you know the one that tells everybody you loved something, rather then you sat on your arse and watched Television!

Mobile push to talk pioneer Voxer has just released an update for Android that includes its brand new Easy Talk widget for Android users. The new widget allows you to quickly access your most important chats and listen to live and recorded voice messages. You can also send audio, texts or images right from the lock screen or home screen.

“Voxer’s goal is to facilitate instantaneous communication and make it easy for users to quickly contact each other, reducing the time it takes to send and receive messages,” the company said of the update in a press release. “This is especially important for businesses, where time saved on communication can lead to benefits like cost savings. The Easy Talk widget is designed to help users communicate faster, enabling them to send and receive messages without unlocking their Android device.”

“REPLACING TRADITIONAL TWO-WAY RADIOS AND OTHER COMMUNICATION DEVICES WITH VOXER”

Some features of the Easy Talk widget include:

  • Access from home or lock screen: Users have access to several Voxer features right from the widget, which includes listening and sending voice messages, texts and images.
  • Prioritize important chats: Users can select specific chats that are the most important to them, and add them to the widget. They can access these chats by tapping on the next and previous buttons within the widget.
  • Send and receive live audio: Voice messages can be streamed live for the chat that is visible on the widget, so the user can have constant access to voice messages, even when the Voxer app is not open on their device.
  • Headset integration: The widget streams live audio to headsets, so users can communicate via their headset for easy access.

“Our customers are replacing their traditional two-way radios and other communication devices with Voxer,” said Irv Remedios, head of product, Voxer. “With this widget, we can replicate the live characteristics of traditional PTT, in addition to other features that can help users communicate faster. Android users can organize their chats, providing easy access to the ones that are the most important. With Easy Talk, users can communicate faster than ever before.”

The Easy Talk widget is now available for Voxer Pro and Voxer Business customers with Android devices running 2.3.5 and above.

Read more at http://www.trutower.com/2014/04/23/voxer-push-to-talk-launches-easytalk-feature-android/#MAJCJ5urdE4lBJDi.99

How did people communicate with each other 100 years ago?

Asked by Barbara from Basingstoke

 

Hi Barbara from Basingstoke (I like that, it has a nice ring to it), 

I presume you mean to ask me how people communicated over long distances, because otherwise the answer would simply be ‘they talked to each other, just as they do today’. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, but please be more specific in future! (Kidding!)

OK, so 100 years ago, in 1914, the telephone was still in its infancy, relatively speaking. 99 years ago, Thomas Watson made the first coast-to-coast phone call in America, so that should give you some idea of where the telephone was, development wise.

However, the invention had been patented since 1876 and 1877 had seen the first long-distance phone call placed. But by and large, telephones were not an overly common part of people’s lives the way they are now.

More common was the telegraph, which had been knocking around for a while by then. People in official positions tended to use that, but it wouldn’t have been a fixture of regular people’s houses.

Far more common than telephone or telegraph was the postal service. In 1914, if you wanted to contact a friend, relative, or loved one, you wrote to them. The working classes were better educated than at any other time in history (up to that point) and literacy was improving (although it certainly wasn’t at the near-ubiquitous level of today). Letters took a long time to arrive by today’s standards, so they tended to be longer and more absorbing than, say, a Facebook chat is today. In fact, intellectuals, authors and politicians would often engage themselves in long-winded and exhaustive intellectual contests via thorough, essay-length correspondences.

Another option would have been to speak via mutual acquaintances. Literature of the period frequently involves friends using a mutual friend in order to carry on a long-distance discussion and it is my understanding that this was quite a common practice. Interestingly, this may very well have shaped the development of certain customs in society (such as ‘good manners’ vs. ‘bad manners’ regarding correspondence etiquette). With our communication methods of today being so vastly different, it remains to be seen how our society will come to reflect this. 

MP FREE! Or how I learned to stop worrying and love new technology

I am a vinyl fan. You’ve never heard of most of my favourite bands, and if you have, you won’t like them. Modern music leaves me extremely cold. I’m a fan of most styles, but the current production methods (lets bury everything under a million layers of random sounds just because we can, then we’ll get rid of all background sound and make everything pitch-perfect and soulless) are lost on me. 

As you can imagine, I came to MP3 rather late. For the longest time I wandered around with a portable CD player in my pocket that skipped if I moved even a step too fast. It ran on batteries that would run out regularly and was, generally, a pain. However, I persevered with it because I’m a compulsive music addict. The rock, blues, folk and reggae tunes I listen to daily are the soundtrack to my life. 

This, then, is how I learned to love portable music (and MP3 is the first truly portable music – believe me, I also once carried a tape player). These days I carry an Apple iPod, an ever-ready library of about 60Gb of music at my fingertips, but I have also used (and worn out) several other MP3 players in my time. 

MP3 isn’t the best way to listen to music. The sound is too ‘scrunched’ (for want to a technical term) At the moment, it is winning on convenience grounds as its space-efficient, cost-effective, easily copied/transferred to other gadgets and can be obtained in just a few minutes. In addition to that (perhaps worryingly if you are a fan of album music) you can purchase only the particular tracks you want at the time. Vinyl is still the best way to really hear a band. But you can’t play a turntable on the train, you can’t take it on holiday with you and you really don’t want to carry a suitcase filled with vinyl anywhere unless you are some sort of DJ and being paid to do so. 

The MP3 is without a doubt the finest development in portable music since the travelling band. But its also really good for alternative music; the mainstream’s brow-beating tactics have rendered a good deal of great music unfashionable, and nobody wants to walk around blasting Celtic Folk or Delta Blues tunes out of a ghetto blaster, do they? Likewise, your favourite band’s foray into soundscapes or clever-dick psychedelia may be awesome, but might not be a hit with the ladies, so to speak, but with MP3, you could be listening to anything and its entirely up to you. Its also good for independent music, bands can cheaply distribute their music (often giving away free songs) which makes starting a band and sharing your music that much simpler. So, to sum up MP3 is a very freeing experience indeed. Just don’t chuck out your turntable!

what xbox 360 model is the best?

A long time ago in a galaxy of gaming far, far away…There were two factions engaged in a perpetual war, a war between two groups of nerds that had waged since at least the 1970’s…The two clans had very different ideas of how games ought to be played and very different cultures, sensitivities and beliefs. On one side, were the PC gamers; arrogant, elitist and prone to almost pathological sarcasm. Games, for them, were hi-spec, graphically rendered masterpieces, the sort of exquisite perfection that Baudelaire may have appreciated had he ever played the original Duke Nukem.

On the other side of this intellectual no-man’s land, their dreaded, bitter, Cromwellian rivals did dwell. These were the console gamers (the words spat with derision) the sort of ignorant peasants who rose above their station in life. Not content with ‘Pong’ or the arcade machines they spent all their coins in, they demanded more, and they got it. These ‘cartridge-gamers’ did not to bother knowing the game specs or even uploading anything at all. Oh, the nerve of it! Just slap the cartridge in and play!? Whatever next?

Well, flash forward to the early noughties and sadly, not much had changed. Console games had evolved from their humble origins, and had made their way into the home as a sort of super-peripheral. PCs were now a vital part of everyday life, and a house without one would seem as archaic as a home without a TV set. The nerd clans had grown, and still the debate raged, an evolutionary standoff of Morlock/Eloi proportions.

Until computer Gods Microsoft did the unthinkable. The definitive PC makers designed, built and sold in record numbers, their very own console. It may as well have been the bomb.This, the X Box, blurred the lines considerably, and now, even Sony’s Playstation has taken note, adding web-based content to its PS3.  Internet gaming, for too long the domain of the descendents of the PC brigade, suddenly opened its doors to the Cartridge family and a robust meeting of minds has been taking place ever since. Often involving swearing and abuse hurled at people’s mothers, but whatever, progress is progress.

XBox 360 has built on this further, and whilst I stay true to my own proletarian origins by preferring the Playstation, I have to admit the X Box 360 is quite a thing. There are, of course, those old die hards who resent the creation of a console with computer innards. Console gameplay (ever the strong point, especially now with the new may-as-well-be-Playstation-great-they-finally-listened-to-me-yay-now-where’s-my-check? Controller) With PC processing power? Oh, the Humanity! It’s like that kid’s book where the white and black elephants go to war and eventually the grey elephant is born. Peace in our time. Ahhh.

Why do secret service guys wear those earpieces with the coiled wires instead of something less conspicuous?

That’s actually a pretty good question. Good quality wireless earpieces are available, affordable and would be far more inconspicuous than the classic ‘wired’ models. So why don’t the secret service make their presence a little more, well, secret?

The main reason is largely psychological in nature (though there will be a technical component later on). You see, if a potential troublemaker looks into a crowd and sees nobody there that he/she identifies with as a threat, then said troublemaker will be far more likely to start making trouble. However, if they notice secret service guys using their trademark earpieces, then they might think twice about it and a lot of unpleasantness can actually be avoided. Read More