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Can you tell I’m a geek?

Compiled by Roy Blumenthal (roy.blumenthal@pixie.co.za)

You know who he is by now. Gareth Branwyn is the dude who wrote the super-guide to using modern media effectively for business and pleasure, “Jamming the Media”. You know who he is cos you’ve got a great memory, and you recall in glorious Technicolor detail the review I wrote of the book. Then come straight back here and find out all about the author. (Be warned: there is a major solicitation later in this piece asking you to buy the book. You’ll find the link to the Amazon-Gadget book alliance below.)

GADGET: Let’s kick off this digitally enabled interview with the most important question in the world: “How should I go about buying a gadget?!!”

GARETH: Don’t believe the hype! Even if you see half a dozen of those ubiquitous “What’s Hot” columns about a product, be cautious, if not sceptical. Most of such columns are “rip and read” pieces, taken from the manufacturer’s press release or written by an overworked tech journalist who’s tired, wants to go home, and who doesn’t really have time to do much more than make sure the gadget turns on.

Read several of the in-depth reviews found on sites like Gadget, Street Tech and “deep geek” sites like Tom’s Hardware (http://www.tomshardware.com) and AnandTech (http://www.anandtech.com).

Check newsgroups related to the device you’re interested in. Wait ’til there’s a sense of what those in the know REALLY think about the product. Then you should be able to make an intelligent purchase.

I also use shopper.com (http://www.shopper.com) to find the best possible price on most computer gear.

GADGET: Well, that’s one way to work up a sweat – don’t just buy the darn thing. Do some research. What do you do after all the thinking? What’s your stress-release method-of-choice?

GARETH: I’m a voracious reader (sci-fi, science and technology, underground comix, art and design, biographies, pop culture and music). I also subscribe to dozens of magazines, (MIT Technology Review, half a dozen computer/Net rags, Robot Quarterly, Steven Brill’s Content, Jazz Times, Spin, Rolling Stone, Utne Reader, Esquire, Jane, Details, Newsweek, Entertainment Weekly). And I track a number of zines (Bunnyhop, Murder Can Be Fun, BUST, Hermanaut).

I also enjoy geeking out with my son, building miniature robots and model rockets, and playing role-playing and video games. Gee, can you tell I’m a geek?

But I do have a social life. I swear! I’m a big music fan and love going to clubs, raves, concerts and parties.

GADGET: Let’s peek into your workroom. Tell us what computers you own…

GARETH: Micron Millennia 450, PowerComputing 120, Transport Trek 2, PowerBook 1400, Everex Freestyle PDA, REX Pro [Museum Pieces]… 486 clone, Mac Iisi, Mac SE, PB100, Newton 100…

GADGET: The poor sad Newton! At least it’s not alone, huh? Now let us in on the hardcore stuff. What projects are you currently allowing your faithful production machines to help you out with?

GARETH: Version 2.0 of my web site Street Tech (http://www.streettech.com), ongoing development of my other sites (http://home.earthlink.net/~garethb2/http://home.earthlink.net/~garethb2/jamming), article writing, and work on a novel you’ll probably never see.

GADGET: Here’s a nitpicker deluxe. Our readers have expressed interest in knowing what software other people use, so we’d like a list of all the software you’ve got loaded.

GARETH: Oh man, that would be a VERY long list. My primary software tools are BBEdit (Mac), Photoshop, QuarkXPress, MS Word (ick), PixelSpy, Fetch (FTP), NCSA Telnet, Netscape Navigator and Claris Emailer.

GADGET: Time to put on your inventor’s hat. What three Gadgets would you rush out and buy if they existed?

GARETH: 1) A computer that actually works without system crashes, endless upgrades, and crappy performance. This computer would be entirely modular, allowing you to (easily) upgrade processors, chipsets, sound and video cards, drives, etc., so you buy ONE computer (say every 5-10 years instead of every two years) and then gradually change components as need dictates and pocketbook allows.

2) A good-quality Internet phone that allows you to talk with all types of phone users (other Internet telephony hardware, software-based telephony, regular analogue phones) – all for FREE.

3) A universal handicap device that functions as a cane, a picker-upper, a storage space for small items, a leaning stool, etc. I have an arthritic disease and am just appalled at the poor design of a lot of handicapped tech. I have a vast collection of useless, if not downright dangerous, picker-uppers and a cane that falls over if you so much as breathe near it.

GADGET: What’s your favourite gadget in the world? One you own, that is…

GARETH: Currently the thing I’m most enamoured with is the LEGO MindStorms Robotic Invention System (http://www.legomindstorms.com). I think it could have an amazing impact on kids growing up with the ability to design, build and program all manner of computer-controlled autonomous devices.

My other current fave is the Matrox Marvel G200-TV card. It’s a multifunction card with video, 2/3D acceleration, TV tuner. Also has hardware MJPEG and comes with Avid’s new consumer-grade video editing software (Avid Cinema). Inside of minutes (if all goes well), you can be loading in audio/video and editing your own vids. All for under US$300.

GADGET: Let’s round off by giving our readers an unashamed bit of biographical info. Go on, no blushing now, let’s hear it straight…

GARETH: I’m a writer on the intersection of culture and technology. I’m a contributing editor of Wired, and the Tech Tool editor of P.O.V. I also write for Details, The Industry Standard and the Baltimore Sun. I’m “Le Grande Fromage” at Street Tech (http://www.streettech.com), a hardware and consumer electronics review site that attempts to provide honest, no BS reviews that focus on the “out-of-box experience,” something we can all relate to. Our motto is “to rant about the stuff that sucks and rave about what doesn’t.”

I’m also the author of seven books, including “The Happy Mutant Handbook” (with the editors of bOING bOING), “Jargon Watch: A Pocket Dictionary for the Jitterati” and “Jamming the Media,” a DIY guide to various forms of “media hacking” (zines, cable access TV, indie music and film, media pranks, and more).

I’ve been (dare I say) blissfully married to the incomparable Washington, DC jazz singer, Pam Bricker for 18 years. We live in Arlington, VA with our 11-year-old son, Blake.

GADGET: Thanks Gareth. As I mentioned above, I’m now going to ask our subscribers to go buy your books. All of them… “You heard me, dear reader – links below!”

* Write to Gareth Branwyn at garethb2@earthlink.net

* Gareth is the Editor-in-Chief of the wonderful consumer-technology site, Street Tech (http://www.streettech.com) It’s good to see other people in the world doing stuff that flows with what Gadget is doing.

* You already know he’s a contributing editor at Wired magazine. Go see all of his goodies online (http://www.wired.com/news/news/search_results_news?words=branwyn).

* Head for the Baltimore Sun web site and do a search for “What’s Hot” or “Branwyn” to find some of his stories there. (http://www.sunspot.net)

* And of course I’m going to be asking you to line our coffers by spending your cash through the Amazon-Gadget associated bookshop! So here I go… “Please buy Gareth’s books through us! (And save 20%!)” Go straight to the titles by following these links and slipping them straight into your shopping basket…

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3D printed room-service? Visit the hotel of tomorrow

To mark its 100th birthday, Hilton predicts the trends that will change travel and hospitality in the next 100 years.

Intergalactic getaways, fast-food nutrient pills, 2-3 hour working days and adaptable, personalised rooms that can transport guests everywhere from jungles to mountain ranges. These are some of the predictions for the next 100 years that the Hilton hotel group has put together in celebration of its 100th anniversary.

In a report supported by expert insight from the fields of sustainability, innovation, design, human relations and nutrition, findings reveal the impact of the growing sophistication of technology and climate change on the hotel industry in the future.

Key predictions for the hotel of the future include:

Personalisation is King

  • Technology will allow every space, fitting and furnishing to continuously update to respond to an individual’s real-time needs – the Lobby will conjure up anything from a tranquil spa to a buzzy bar, giving every guest the perfect, personal welcome
  • From temperature and lighting, to entertainment and beyond, microchips under the skin will enable us to wirelessly control the setting around us based on what we need, whenever we need it

The Human Touch

  • In a world filled with Artificial Intelligence, human contact and the personal touch will be more critical and sought after than ever
  • Technology will free up time for hotel staff to focus on what matters most: helping guests to connect with one another and building memorable moments

‘Sustainable Everything’ – The Role of Responsibility

  • Only businesses that are inherently responsible will survive the next century
  • Sustainability will be baked into everything about a hotel’s design – from weather-proofed domes, to buildings made from ocean-dredged plastic
  • Hotels will act as the Town Hall of any community, managing local resources and contributing to the areas they serve with community-tended insect farms and vertical hydroponic crop gardens

Menu Surprises and Personalisation

  • Our diets will include more plant-based recipes and some surprising sources of protein – Beetle Bolognese, Plankton Pies and Seaweed Green Velvet Cake will be menu staples!
  • Decadent 3D-printed dinners and room service will provide unrivalled plate personalisation
  • Chefs will be provided with biometric data for each guest, automatically creating meals based on preferences and nutritional requirements

Futuristic Fitness and Digital Detoxes

  • Outswim a virtual sea turtle in the pool, or challenge yourself to climb the digital face of Mount Everest, your exercise routine will be as unique as you are. What’s more, exercise energy generated from workouts will be used to power the hotel, providing a zero-impact, circular system. Guests could even earn rewards based on reaching workout targets
  • Pick up where you left off with trackable workouts and holographic personal trainers
  • Offline will be the new luxury as we seek to find moments of tech-free time

“Since its inception in 1919, Hilton has pioneered the hospitality industry, introducing first-to-market concepts such as air-conditioning and in-room televisions. Last year, Hilton also became the first hospitality company to set science-based targets to reduce its environmental impact,” said Simon Vincent, EVP & President, EMEA, Hilton. “We enter our second century with the same commitment to innovation, harnessing the power of our people and technology to respond to guest demands. Our research paints an exciting future for the hospitality industry, highlighting the growing importance of human interaction in an increasingly tech-centric world.”

Futurologist Gerd Leonhard said: “In 2119 we will still be searching for unique experiences, but they will be more personalised than ever. As technology shapes our lives we will seek out moments of offline connection with others, including hotel team members who will help us truly get what we need from our stays. 100 years from now hotels will have to create opportunities to converse, collaborate and connect, delivering moments that matter, individually, to each and every guest.”

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Gadget ed to chair Digital Council

Specialist financial services provider Sasfin Bank has established a Digital Advisory Council to provide the market with industry-leading expertise and insights on trends shaping the use of technology in financial services.

Digitalisation is one of the most powerful forces for change shaping Finance today. This has turned Fintech into one of the most vibrant sectors in both information technology and among start-ups, generating billions of dollars in investment and development globally. The South African fintech space is dynamic, and Sasfin is playing a leading role in the transformation of local financial services and the resulting enhancement of customer experiences.

“We have been investing in fintech development in-house and acquiring or integrating fintech start-ups,” says Sasfin CEO Michael Sassoon. “Over the last year we have built further digital offerings, integrated via APIs into leading businesses and invested in fintechs. We built and launched B\\YOND, an innovative digital business banking platform and SWIP, a digital wealth and investing platform. We have invested in Payabill, an online SME lender and DMA, a digital trading platform. We recently announced our alliance banking relationship, leveraging open banking, with Hello Paisa to offer seamless banking to the unbanked. We feel that there is a huge opportunity to improve the experience of South African businesses and savers through using technology. We have therefore created an independent forum to assess how to even better improve financial services for South Africans by leveraging the digital economy.”

Arthur Goldstuck, founder of high-tech research consultancy World Wide Worx, editor-in-chief of Gadget, and a globally respected technology analyst has accepted Sasfin’s invitation to head up the Sasfin Digital Advisory Council, an independent think tank that will help Sasfin and its clients decipher the fintech present and future.

“The Sasfin Digital Advisory Council is broader than providing only the bank with a source of insight on how digital services are evolving and lessons from across the world,” said CEO Michael Sassoon. “Sasfin has been involved in fintech investing for many years and we are leveraging this experience as well as the experience of independent experts such as Arthur to provide insights and guidance to interested stakeholders in this space.”

The team appointed to the Digital Advisory Council is being selected for the breadth and range of knowledge they would bring to the table, with further appointments to the Council being announced soon.  There will also be room for the Council to co-opt specialist expertise as it is required.

Goldstuck, who has been covering the fintech sector as an analyst, commentator and columnist for many years, says he sees the role as a welcome challenge.

“There has been a long-standing need for a clear understanding of the impact being made by fintech today, and the exponential change it will cause tomorrow,” said Goldstuck. “My role will be, partly, to curate the wide spectrum of fintech and digitalisation knowledge and insights that the members will bring to the Digital Advisory Council, and help create scenarios that businesses and policymakers may use to navigate the future – both inside and outside Sasfin.”

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