Concrete 5 Designers

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Concrete 5 is a Content Management System (CMS) that is growing in popularity due to its flexibility, extendability and ease of use.

The Concrete 5 design implementation is based around an MVC architecture which is excellent for code organisation and collaborative development work as the fundamental technical disciplines are configurable as separate concerns.
The system is designed to enable less technically apt users gain control over large portions of how the pages and content of the website act and perform including advanced concepts such as page caching and version control on a page by page basis.

 

Over coming weeks we will be investigating the options available to you when deciding on whether to theme Concrete5 yourself or even tips for hiring Concrete 5 Designers.

Until then for out of the box Conrete5 themes the most obvious place is the theme marketplace.

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Google Launches Amazon Prime Like Service

Amazon Prime, the yearly subscription service that allows Amazon customers to receive discounted shipping rates has just found itself a big new competitor.

According to the Wall Street Journal Google intends to provide a centralised fast shipping service to merchants and customers to improve the e-commerce experience outside of Amazon. The fee for using the service has been set at $79 and given the increasing amounts of shopping being completed online, this would represent good value for money over a year.

The WSJ suggests that Google had noticed the success of Amazon Prime in that customers were beginning their product searches on Amazon’s website instead of Google’s product search facilities.

Shipping remains one of the sticking points for online shopping and is often the differentiator between good and bad merchant experiences. This innovation, if successful would simplify the complex and often unfair shipping ecosystems that hold back e-commerce performance. Given that Amazon do not offer their shipping services outside of Amazon, this would suggest that Google have the better offering if they do not react.

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Desk of The Future

Mashable has posted up an interesting video of a futuristic workspace that replaces the desk with a large touch screen. Whilst there are clearly many improvements to be made, this is a great canvas to develop from. Will 2012 be the year where human interfaces being to really engage everyday users in more involved ways?

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New Tech Extracts Images From Your Mind

Watching your dreams back on a screen may not be too far away in our future. A new technique developed by UC Berkeley scientists allows for images that the subject is viewing to be extracted and reconstructed. Gizmodo has the full article. The video below shows the computer reconstructing an image from the subject in an MRI scanner who is watching a movie. The images are blurry and slightly off due to a limited reference palette but with a larger sample size, there is no doubt that this can be refined further!

Impressive Solar Power Plant Manages 24/7 Operation

As the discussion about how our future energy needs will be met continues, Spain’s Gemasolar plant created by Torresol Energy has successfully deployed an effective Solar solution showing that it can perform throughout the evening with a clever solution for energy storage.

The plant consists of Heliostats (Mirrors) arranged and positioned in concentric circles. These mirrors focus the suns rays onto a tower in the middle of the plant which then captures the focused energy, storing some of it as heat in an innovative battery that uses molten salt.

Typically solar plants are only effective during the daylight hours when the sun is powering solar arrays for energy generation. Storing this energy has historically been a problem, as soon as the sun is setting, the energy available drops to zero. The 19.9 MW plant in Spain uses molten salt to transfer and store the surplus energy during the day, this molten salt mixture is said to store 99% of the heat energy allowing the plant to convert that stored energy during the evening hours back into steam which proceeds to drive turbines for energy generation.

The design is quite a sight to look at as is the central tower glowing brightly as it receives the combined output of the heliostats.

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Is the Future Completely Cloud Based?

Fast forward 10-20 years, what options will exist for accessing and storing your data?

It seems that with all of the major OS vendors launching cloud services – Apple launched iCloud at WWDC today , Windows 8 is widely expected to utilise the cloud more closely, Google bases all of its services online and so on… The way we access and store data is clearly set to continue to change. Your data is very valuable, your data stream will grow exponentially in volume and quality as the seamlessness of devices around you work in harmony to paint a very complete picture of you.

The Cloud concept is nothing new and the writing has been on the wall for some time, its just the major brands are now kicking the idea into a new gear. For me, such a reliance on a virtual source powered by a corporate entity leaves me with mixed feelings. The convenience is excellent but who has my data, where will it be, and on what terms is that data over there, is it for sale, am I involved in that decision?

These questions have been asked many times, the future of data will make this an increasingly  important set of questions to be answered however.

As all of the major services copy each other and evolve, will that future leave Linux as the only real OS that is flexible enough to still offer a local, physical, even disconnected option with any level of real control?

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Flipboard – A Genuinely Innovative Ipad App

There is no denying that Apple’s Ipad is a major success, finding unique Apps that truly change things can be more tricky however. Flipboard is one of those apps that brings the Ipad into another league. As the mainstream browsers look to gain market share and copy each others mini features, it feels like Flipboard is taking browsing in a different direction all together.

Typically viewing a Twitter feed can seem like hard work – searching for nuggets of information or exciting developments through endless lists of Tweets with contextless shortened links gets boring quickly. Take that feed and load it via Flipboard and the experience is transformed.

Cleverly, Flipboard fetches a summary from tweets with tweeted links and then brings them back, displaying in a neat magazine format. A system of organising these summaries into usable chunks of information means that you feel like you can get a fast and effective feel for the true information that exists in your Twitter feed.

For me, this unleashes another level of power from Twitter, where you once overlooked a badly written tweet, the visual summary means that you are much more likely to notice something of interest.

Flipboard applies this concept to other feed types including Facebook and most importantly RSS feeds. I added my Google Reader account to the app, Flipboard is easily now my preferred RSS reader.

Flipboard has innovated the browser here, rather than a linear display of information that we get from many apps and browsers, this alternative data view brings out the hidden gems in your networks.

For a better idea here is their video demo:


Flipboard Logo

To date, Flipboard is my favourite Ipad app and its a Free app…

Google IO, Arduino based ADK for Android Launches, Hackers Rejoice

In what looks to be a match made in heaven, Google as announced some steps which show the direction that it wants to go in. One of the major announcements at the 2011 Google IO conference is Android Open Accessory support for android devices which will apply to Android versions as far back as 2.3.4.

The development kit provides an interface for Android devices, via their USB port, developers and designers can now get on with bringing external devices and innovations and connect them to Android. The Arduino – An Open-Source electronic prototyping platform is very popular with the open source community. A variety of sensors, interfaces and applications are made possible with the platform which is also accessible to coders with limited experience. By marrying the two, Google clearly hopes to spark some innovative new extensions to the Android platform.

Google showed off the ADK with this video of an Android controlled 5000 pound Labyrinth that tilts in sync with the Android mobile. An impressive beginning.

Google IO

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RepRap 3D Printing, Revolution in Waiting?

3D printing is a concept that has been around for some time now. Wikipedia defines it as:

3D printing is a form of additive manufacturing technology where a three dimensional object is created by laying down successive layers of material.

Recent advances and clever innovations are bringing these printers to the home desktop whilst also harnessing the power of online communities & open source ideologies.

Commercial printing machines are expensive, you can expect to pay upwards of £20,000 for one. Not exactly loose change. It doesn’t have to be this way though. Reprap appears to be breaking down the barriers to entry by producing a very low cost and free to build 3d desktop printer. In their words:

RepRap is a free desktop 3D printer capable of printing plastic objects. Since many parts of RepRap are made from plastic and RepRap can print those parts, RepRap is a self-replicating machine - one that anyone can build given time and materials. It also means that - if you've got a RepRap - you can print lots of useful stuff, and you can print another RepRap for a friend...

Thats quite a statement. A printer that can print itself? At the time of writing, the Reprap can print around 50% of its parts. Their aim in the second iteration of the printer is to improve that ratio further. With some evolution, they may achieve a fully self-replicating printer in the end. So buy one, print n more, some good viral potential there.

Aside from the self-replicating feature which is fairly astounding. The potentially viral and game changing reality of 3d printing is that the 3D printers are in effect, mini product factories. Users can download product designs from an online community who have shared their creations for the benefit of the community. Once downloaded, the 3d printer gets on with its work and presto! you have that online design physically created into plastic by your home printer.

It doesn’t take long after watching the following video to start to understand the potential of being able to print your own products at home, Star Trek fans will remember the ‘replicator’ fondly, could we be looking at the start of a movement that will end up changing how products are distributed? At the moment, the construction material is plastic, but there are plans to enable the printing of circuit boards and other materials allowing for more complex products to be produced.

Here is a video from the Reprap wiki that explains it in full:

RepRap from Adrian Bowyer on Vimeo.

A great quote which summed up the potential was made by Google’s Chris DiBona who said, “Think of RepRap as a China on your desktop”.

One to watch.

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Kickstarter, Innovative Community Funding For Projects

Kicking off our ‘innovative web’ category, Kickstarter.com aims to make it easier for creative projects to gain funding. The site is a fresh concept, it utitilises the power of community and crowd sourcing to help projects get off the ground.

Many projects struggle to get off the ground or leave their creator’s head due to funding difficulties. Kickstarter aims to make this process easier by providing a platform where users can either start a project and advertise for funding, or to signup as a funder of a project and contribute funding to a project that they like the sound of.

Projects require 100% funding before they commence. If the project fails, no money is repaid. Funders are usually offered perks for contributing to a project however, this tends to be on a sliding scale based on how much you have contributed. Rewards such as recognition or the product itself are offered to funders if they contribute enough.
Tapose is a project that has neared its funding goal, it aims to bring Courier functionality to the Ipad, here is a video offered on the site at the time of writing:

Donating $10 to the project will get you a copy of Tapose.

$35 All the above, PLUS a digital download of a Tapose keepsake book detailing the creation of Tapose from idea to application. Includes napkin ideas, draft sketches, mock screenshots, stages of development, etc.

There are more levels of contributions which can be found on the project page here.

Kickstarter is an excellent idea and we love the possibilities that may come out of here, one to watch.