ACD Blog – Technology

blog stuff about technology

Power, Shine On Me!

Ever since I was a kid, I was amazed at the idea of electricity, and how it just magically seemed to allow things to work. As an adult. not much has changed, except now i have Ebay and a credit card. Over the past year or so I have bought some great solar powered devices to experiment with and I want to share them with you. Theres so many awesome things out there that you can ge solar powered, and I’ll also explain how the solar energy process works at the end of this blog post.

Our relationship to energy and electricity

I guess most people’s first time in creating electricity themselves would either be with new carpet, and zapping yourself and others all the time (static electricity), or by making a light glow with a potato (using a nail and an old penny). These days there are great solar versions of devices that have commonly been battery powered.

Every hour, on the half of the earth that receives sunlight, we get enough energy to power all the devices on earth for one whole year. Of course, we cannot make the whole side of the earth a solar cell, as we use solar energy in many other ways, as it heats up the water to cause currents (think about the interesting double entendre there) as well as the solar energy of photosynthesis which grows our vegetables, which instead of producing electricity produces sugar for plants but in a very similar way.

So the Sun is a pretty amazing source of energy. Humans have become more and more reliant on energy from the sun and we will certainly use that source more and more in the future. In the beginning the solar cells we produced were so expensive to produce and use, as to outweigh the cost of using them. These days we are producing ever more productive cells for better costs, both financially and environmentally.

This map shows the best solar coverage on the earth. Deep red is the most effective areas.

My favorite solar powered items

Well what I’m young to show you today is a few simple items I have in my hose that use solar power. I’m going to explain how they work and hopefully give you some ideas about how to use solar more usefully in your lives.

SOLAR BIKE LIGHTS

The best use of solar products, are things that already spend a lot of time outside. What better way than to ride around during the day and have bike lights powered up by the time the night comes. These little guys last for a couple of days easily on one charge. They are pretty cheap, and a very simple design. i opened the back light to see how it was made and as you can see its a tiny board with two batteries wired right to the back of the panel itself. It uses the refraction of the plastic to make most of the light. I would recommend everyone having solar powered bike lights as they really chew through batteries and this is a convenient and perfect place for this technology.

THE RAINBOW MAKER

This little wonder uses sunlight in two different ways. It only need to run when its sunny, so needs no battery to store power for later but instantly turns that energy into kinetic energy but turning a few little cogs. Every day i see it as i come into the kitchen for breakfast. (it gets up way before i do).

When you see a rainbow its just opens up some part of your brain. For some its … “Ooooh pretty colors!”, but for me its more like, holy shit we have a device on my window that processes sunlight to power a small motor with a crystal on the end that we know shifts the same sunlight into wavelengths along the visible spectrum (of course the invisible spectrum is just off to the sides but i can’t see them), and it makes me think. Maybe there is hope for the human race after all. Now thats an exciting thing to wake up to every morning.

SOLAR WATCH

Another device that is perfect for solar is a watch. It travels around with you and uses quite low power, but is annoying to change the batteries of and causes waste by doing so. The solar panel in my watch is so tiny you can’t even see it well. It’s that slit just below the watch face.

SOLAR/WINDUP TORCH

This little guy is probably one of the most used handy little gadgets i own, regardless of the solar function. Its perfect for djing, so you can see when plugging in cables in clubs etc, but comes in handy in many situations. It also has the magical ability of being dual power, so if its not sunny or you have used it for too long, you can wind a handle on the side which powers it up for some time. Its also only about 5cm long. Its really a revolutionary (pardon the pun) device. I had to know what made this little guy run.

I opened it up to see how it works. The green is the battery, above it is the transformer that converts the cogs turning into electricity to power the battery. The solar panel feeds into the same battery. An array of led lights are off to the side.

AUTOMATIC SOLAR CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

One of the best devices I have is a set of solar powered Christmas lights. They charge a battery during the day, and when it gets too dark to absorb power, it automatically turns on the lights (as it assumes the sun is going down) and the lights go on until they run out of power (it usually lasts until sunrise,depending on the weather). Then whole process repeats indefinitely. It’s the opposite of the rainbow maker as it conserves all the energy it gets during the day, and activates at night. I have them on every night in my lounge room and never get sick of them. They don’t flash thankfully, but did you know flashing LEDs can last for 3 to 4 times longer than ones that stay on?

If you put the technology fro the rainbow maker and the christmas lights into one device, you could get a device that runs forever.

SOLAR KIDS TOYS

Why not get your kids something that not only expands their knowledge but introduces solar power to them in a fun way. When they realize they have in infinite source of power to play with,( which is totally safe, they will entertain themselves for hours coming up with new ideas, and these are the building blocks of the ideas that we will use to save our civilisation (maybe over dramatic but somewhat true) in the future. I bought this kit that becomes 5 different toys. One of them is a fan, which is probably the most useful on a sunny day.

The solar car is basically the most primitive but most fun solar toy. It’s basically a solar panel with a minute motor connected to wheels. It will continually drive while in the sun and stops almost immediately in the shade. As you can see its the basic same design as the solar cars of the past.

Of course the sun moves during the day, so we can use the solar power created by solar panels to move the panels to receive the most effective levels of light at all times. If every time the car was in the shade it used stored power to get back to the sun, it could last forever that way. Imagine if a Rhoomba (those robotic vacuum cleaners) or other devices like that can out during the day to sun themselves to store power automatically. Now that would be amazing.

Other uses of solar power

Of course if you use solar power to trigger a switch, the possibilities are almost infinite.of course a different technology, the battery allows us to store energy and use it later. That is a very important step in the solar power process, as basically no one needs lights when the sun us shining, and lighting is our most commonly used electrical appliance by most people, unless you are a lonely housewife with a vibrator obsession.

But silliness aside, if each of us thought about it, we would find a few ways to use solar around our house, and like most things in life, you don’t need to change 100% to make a significant impact on the world around you.

SOLAR OVEN

Here is an interesting device. The solar oven. We used it at my work in Japan. Truthfully it was a bit of a failure, but the idea is there. I’ve seen sunlight used with the fresnel lens inside a rear projection TV that can melt through solid metal in seconds. Have a look at the video at the end of this article.Makes for a pretty awesome photo though!

ok, now for the lesson in how all this stuff works.


What is Solar?

So the word solar, we hear all the time. Most people basically know what it means but heres a simple definition. Its anything related to a star/sun. In our case, we use the term Sun for our closest star. There is no difference between our sun and the starts we see twinkling in the sky, except that the other stars are generally much bigger, but much, much, much further away that they appear tiny. Its also a good indication of how big our universe is.We hear the term “Solar System” all the time and that is all the planets trapped in the gravitational field of our sun. You undoubtably have heard of the performers, Cirque du Soleil, which in English, is “Circus of the Sun”. the word “sol” meaning sun has been in use since ancient Roman times and appears in many languages in similar formats.

When researching solar panels, you will find out there is more than one method for creating electricity using the light for the sun. The only unchangeable thing is the light (can be substituted for other sources which emit photons), whose photons, once passed through a semi-conductor, like silicon, are passed out the other end as electrons. Solar cells are also called Photovoltaic (PV) cells (photo meaning “light” and voltaic meaning “electricity”) and are named as they convert the energy from light into the energy we call electricity, which we can store in batteries.

So how does it work?

The process is when sunlight hits very thin sliced silicon (basically sand – and also what your computer chips are made from), called wafers, and knocks an electron off the silicon which travels around the circuit and powers your devices. Silcon wafers joined together is called a solar cell, solar cells joined together are called solar panel, and solar panels are joined together to make solar arrays. ‘array!

On one side, the silicon wafers are slightly negative (by adding phosphorous). The other side are slightly positive (by adding boron). When i say slightly , i mean almost a 1:1 000 000 ratio, as its the tiny impurification that allows the electrons to be able to be free from the silicon. Pure silicon is too strong and would not let go so easily and the Boron and Phosphorous have 5 electrons which doesn’t allow all the silicon electrons to make connections. So, an electron is knocked loose from its bond. this process is basically never-ending and will happen billions of times in each cell every second. Yeah. electrons are pretty small. After doing their job (once used in an appliance), they go around the whole circuit and come back to the silicon and the electron joins on again ready to be knocked off again. They must be pretty annoyed. It’s a rewardless job being an electron.

Photovoltaic (PV) is a developing field and utilizes several different technologies: mono-crystalline (single crystal), polycrystalline (multiple crystal), cadmium telluride, gallium arsenide, or amorphous silicon deposited as a thin film. The major advantage of mono-crystalline cells is their higher efficiency and therefore smaller space requirements. Thin film can be cheaper to manufacture but is significantly less efficient, requiring more area and higher initial setup cost. Once we perfect the transparent solar cells, we will be able to “stack” them which will save a bunch of space, but ultimately the second row will be running on much less photon interaction.

The future of solar

Its my strong belief that instead of producing massive solar arrays like is becoming common, we will use much smaller solar cells, but instead us them on the end of a reflective dish to maximize the power in to power out ratio (see top left-pic above). many places already do this, but for some reason we don’t use it on homes. Another quite viable option would be that we add a thin film of solar reactant film inside our windows, which will generate energy that way. Just think, the screen on your mobile phone could be what is actually powering it one day. Although you wont get much from the actual device itself. Here is why….

I did an experiment by holding my solar powered car up to a range of light sources to see if it would work. Its amazing how much light it needs to start turning the wheels, and this was upside down so no friction or car weight was involved. So you need a photon rich light source. Interestingly enough, the lights that emit lots of photons,also take the most amount of electricity to run, as they are technically wasting the photons they shoot out which also cause much larger amount of heat.

The best ideas I have seen involve not supplemental solar panels, which does use a lot of extra resources, but solar incorporated in the main structure. For example, the carport that is made form solar panels (see pic above). you need to make it from something, so why not them.


The next stage of evolution would be the mega sun shade for cars which also recharges them. the next stage would be the car with a solar panel on top, and possibly a wind generator for when you are driving. Its innovations like these that will make these renewable energy sources really start to have a positive impact.

Do solar cells degrade?

Yes and No. like anything in the world they slowly disintegrate, but in general, they will not degrade significantly over time. The electrons never run out and can make the journey technically infinitely. The batteries which store the power will degrade over time and there are many battery types which have different lifespans. Actually most of the viability of this idea depends on battery technology more than anything else, which, as you can tell be todays laptops and mobile phones, is jumping forward in leaps and bounds.

The next step

When researching solar power I had a huge paradigm shift in how it thought about it. I have recently been impressed by governments around the world becoming very active in the promotion of solar energy.

There are a few haters out there, but in general people generally see solar as a supplement for other energy, when it doesn’t need to be this way at all. Some say that the amount of energy used to make solar cells takes so long to recover that i is not a sustainable source after all but this is rapidly changing as the mass production of solar arrays, or the ingenious ideas of using an array of mirrors to concentrate the sun onto much smaller and more durable solar panels, possibly even, massive fresnel lenses to pin point the suns rays, but at the moment the heat of the sun is a major factor which easily destroys anything in its path.

Theres certainly a revolution taking place. There is a whole city in Spain that is run by this very beautiful array, made form one mega voltaic cell in the middle surrounded by robotically controlled mirrors to track the suns movement and give it maximum power. Good work! …and its working models like these that will make the rest of the world realize its not a dream but an inevitable reality. Lots of arab nations are looking into is as they have awesome sun cover over there. Most likely America will get more involved more for the sake of “trying to beat the opposition” than desiring the change themselves. Who gives a shit how it comes about, ill be happy when it does.

Further reading

Some interesting videos
This video has a great diagram of how a solar array can power your home – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJ01UUZrHqI
(you could replace the generator with any other power source, like a wind generator… or a modified bicycle if you are really energetic)

Using a fresnel lens with the sun – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFw7U7V1Hok

From StuffYouShouldKnow
How solar cells work(11 pages) -http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/energy/solar-cell.htm
How solar Yard lights work(4 pages) – http://home.howstuffworks.com/solar-light.htm

Make a solar powered dog house (a cooled and heated dog house from your own custom built solar panels) – http://solarpowereddoghouse.com/

How to make solar panels in series. If this goofy couple can, anyone can – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Zy3ELxwdtE

This video is about the new range of “organic” photovoltaic cells produced by BASF – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Wi5zWSD-6I
Also -for a bit of fairly unrelated but interesting learning.

How to make a penny battery – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIdPfDHeROI

CHROME is going Platinum

It certainly seems Chrome has stormed the market and has officially taken over as the most popular browser. In a free application market, which all web browsers are, you often see domination of this kind, but unlike proce point being a major factor, the workflow and available tools always are the major factors, as well as social influence.

Google obviously failed to overthrow Facebook with their own version of facebook, Google+. They also went head to head with Firefox in the browser market, which I thought would be the same deal, but this time they won, and I would say the default browser of choice these days would be Chrome.

As a web designer, i have always appreciated the advanced tools of Firefox (especially firebug – http://getfirebug.com) and have waited as long as i can for them to get their program working without stealing all my RAM.

Well i gave up after a looong wait. Made the switch to chrome on the weekend. I really missed my Firefox setup, but after a good 2-3 hours of setup (you really dont know how much you will like an app till its fully tuned to your needs), im very happy with it, and can see at least a 2-3GB memory improvement. I can recommend to anyone maxing their RAM in Firefox.

THINGS TO DO IF YOU CHANGE BROWSERS TO CHROME

Step 1 – Change your default browser.

its a bitch when you click a ink and it opens in firefox. now you’ve got both open. Great. way to save memory genius! So don’t forget to do this if you plan to permanently change browser.

https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/95417?hl=en

PIN THAT SHIT!

Step 2 – pin your most used tabs

The ability to PIN certain tabs perfect for email, kindle reader, and i have my Yamaha audio receiver on there, so i can change sound inputs and volume without the remote). It’s a perfect way to save screen space and get rid of the tabs you use all the time. Keep them to the left and have a tidier workspace. Just right click and say “pin tab” and it will shrink down to a favicon sized logo.


GET SOME KICK ASS PLUGINS

Step 3 – find some time saving and time wasting tools

You can setup your new page tabs with loads of pages and apps, much like you would on an iphone. You can name each page down the bottom. They have a “windows 8″ style page option also with pink squares, but once you fill up about 30 slots it defaults back to its original style. This is easier and better.

Here are some “plugins” that i installed to my chrome desktop. As its just been a few days i haven’t had tome to rurally thoroughly test each one, but here are the ones i think will be very interesting.

Plugins I like

Music

Earbits Radio – browse channels – good world music selection – FULL SCREEN IMAGERY

middle eastern world – indian world and all kinds of subgenres for electronic. I was introduced to them when was djing at the Eclipse festival in Australia and they had an official eclipse radio station for all the artists there and every song yo can see who it is and also join up to a mailing list of their music. very handy (if you want to join a lot, then setup a new email address just to receive all the music ideas )

Audio Sauna – nice little synth you can play with your commuter keyboard that has a whole bunch of sounds. good sub bass, as well as a pretty standard sequencer. Good for playing around and making ideas on. You can save the tracks to a folder and reopen them later on. sweet.

Kaseta.co – Who doesn’t love a good tape. they had such personality, you got to love every warp and glitch on every song you had on tape. This mix tape is very different though, as it is of YouTube videos. It is partenered with soundcloud, so i thought you could make music compilations, but fuck me if i could work out how. Make mixtures of everything you like, and. They have awesome tape designs and unlimited fun. you can share your tapes too. click the play button in the right spindle( is that what the are called?)

Dark Editor – make your won pub books out of text on your computer, or type stuff in there. perfect if you want to make a very simple EPUB book to send someone with your resume or similar.

In the office

Resumup – This show you how to get from where you are now, to where you want ot be career wise. Pretty interesting. Shows you jobs available and courses available along the way. Not sure how realistic it is though.

Fox Utils Merge PDF- Merges PDFs. Not foxes.

PDF Split - same as above but the opposite. Not fox related at all.

PDFBot- make a web page into a PDF

and of course

GAMES – Whooppee!

Most of the games I downloaded free on chrome were total crapola. There were one or two that stand out as a bit interesting for different reasons.

Contra – the original Konami NES game playable through chrome. Awesome if you like blowing and shooting things with little pixel shaped bullets. nice moody music and i looove pixelation transitions. It’s pretty hard so you won’t get far. But that means its good for a short break. There is 3 in the series. well worth getting on a wii if you have one.

Z-tpye – very interesting typing game.Like space invaders but you gotta type the words of the incoming spaceships which get progressively longer. You die after about 5 mins. Good for a quick break but not very relaxing on your fingers.

WarLight – old school turn by turn take over the world game. Played like its a board game. No fancy animations, just numbers. Good for strategy loving people. Spent more time on this game than any other recently, and crazily addictive. First 3 missions are not so hard, but after that beware. This gets two thumbs up for being so engaging and so simple at the same time.

Firefox search bar fun


This picture has nothing to do with what I’m going to write about, but it certainly makes you appreciate he beauty of Firefox.

This is a super fast and easy tip: Fixing your Firefox default address bar search engine and also some super shortcuts!
So after quite while using chrome, i returned to Firefox today to do some work, as I find it more helpful for some web tasks.

As i’m used to Chrome now, i forgot to press the “tab” key before typing my search, as is necessary in Firefox, to jump to the search string area, and it did my search in Bing. Yuck! Double Yuck!! i felt violated obviously, and resolved to change this.


Don’t be fooled by this sexy representation of Bing. there is nothing sexy about it.

So What can i do to fix this?

If you know much about the inner working of Firefox you know its kind of setup like Unix, and has loads of typed commands that most of us will not remember to use. There is no pretty interface for a lot of them which speeds up the way the browser works, but you can very easily access them though by typing this little piece of magic

Step1

Type this into the address bar in Firefox.about:config

You will see this little dialog. don’t ruin your pants… just don’t do anything silly. Click the “ill be careful…” button

Step2

Next in the Seach field below, type “keyword.URL


You should see the Value column appear – but the value will be different

Step3

double click the Value area and replace it with this -

http://www.google.com/search?ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=

There are also many many different search engines you can put in there
here are the options – http://mycroftproject.com/

Step4

close that window. make a new one and do a test!

Here is the SUPER TIP!

While messing around with this, i could see that it was just adding what i typed onto the text I passed into the window.For example -

http://www.google.com/search?ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=
+
yippee
=

http://www.google.com/search?ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=yippee

which is obviously googles search method for UTF-8 documents.

This gave me an idea…

What If I replaced it with my own web address(don’t forget the slash if you are going into a subfolder!). i have already made some shortcuts to my main pages (See this blog post i made that explains that – http://ahimsa-creative.com/ahimsa_collective/AC2011/2013/08/05/super-simple-page-redirect/)

So, using that method on my server, you can type just blog,portfolio or music to get to these pages:

http://www.ahimsa-creative.com/blog
http://www.ahimsa-creative.com/portfolio
http://www.ahimsa-creative.com/music

Which, using the technique explained in the “Super Simple Page Redirect” blog post can link to any page you like.

Now when you type in the key words you have setup on your server, you will go to the corresponding pages. So If I just type the word “music” I will get to my Music.Live/DJ site – www.ahimsalove (see how). Awesome.

Of course the opportunities are endless. This is perfect if you want to keep all the data for a project in one place and easy to find and remember.

Hope this help you guys……

And the final roundup

if you are lucky you will never see this pile of poo again……

GAME – Puzzling adventure : Little Soldiers

Well I’ve done a blog post about my favorite puzzle games before, but there is a game I’ve been playing that is definitely worth a mention. The main reason this game really stands out is that it takes puzzling to a new level. This game is ridiculously hard, and usually i would pass over something of this difficulty, as i play games mainly for stress release, but if the difficulty is justified then i think it adds a maturity to the game that actually strengthens it, rather than some games that use difficulty as a cheap way of making the game last longer.

this game is called Little Soldiers. Its slow paced ( a train swap game as i like to call them, that doesn’t do anything if you have to suddenly do something (like changin trains or any other activity where you suddenly need to be active). This is a very important factor as you should play the type of game that suits your needs, notjust in-game but in the outside world.

GAME OVERVIEW

Basically you have to get your men to the exit using the resources available. Usually you will need every tool presented to you in each level. It Uses the “8-bit cross section” approach where you can see the whole playing field regardless of where you are in the level. Each level is roughly the same size, and can be viewed in full on your screen. It works just as well on iPhone as it does on the iPad, but the iPad certainly has an edge when you view the whole area.

So all i can say is that the gameplay is such that you will never finish a level on the first try. You can undo an unlimited amount of times, as you sometimes realize an earlier mistake and it would be annoying and time killing to go back and start again, but sometimes that is easier as you might want to try a completely new tactic.

This game is so challenging that you need to think about 5moves ahead at all times to get your goal, and have a complete understanding of how every single tile works to get to the end, as there is certainly only one way to finish each puzzle.

i had this game on my phone but got sick of it, as I found it too hard, but re-installed at a year later and played it through. I was very happy that I did, and replaying the stages i had played before solidified my understanding of the game and prepared me for the later stages.

Like “Trainyard”, which is still my favorite game for iPhone, its a game you may take weeks on a level and kick yourself when you finally work it out. The only gripe i have is that they should have doubled the amount of levels and introduced more advanced techniques at a slower rate.

Give it a go.

The best way to shorten URLs

Well that’s not exactly true, as tinyURL has basically only one feature, to make long URLs into short ones. heres the link

It does have one feature that REALLY makes it stand out. You can choose what it shortens the URLs too. That’s probably the most important feature in the whole URL shortening business.
Some other URL shorteners have other options, but this is all you really need to make awesome URLS. perfect for twitter where you have limited characters.

TinyURLs website is pretty ugly to say the very least. they are not stupid so they did this on purpose to create a “homemade” vibe I guess. Anyway I dont use it for its other fancy functions, only that it makes beautiful

for example i made the link to my Facebook page in each of them.I think there is a clear winner

www.tinyurl.com/ahimsacreative

Its certainly the most pretty. to show you how each major URL shortener works, I made the same link in each.

The other options are:

Goo.gl

goo.gl - has click tracking with analytics. A good feature if you need that info. ugly though and not so handy.

example – goo.gl/kY2Jo

Bit.ly

bitly.com -Actually great if you create a free account as it keep them all there for you to find later. This is very handy. It also has analytics and is a nice pale blue website which i find relaxing.

example – http://on.fb.me/11tRr42

ShortURL

shorturl.com -Actually this site has some pretty impressive options, but not exactly what i would call convenient as it give you too many URLs for different purposes. Has some other features you can explore if you like.

example – http://alturl.com/aeshw

Update your foolish ways, not software

Sorry for the derogatory title, but its very important that everyone understands this.

UPGRADE/UPDATE IS JUST MODIFIED CODE

It does not necessarily that you will be progressing to the “next level”. Waaaaay too many times have I seen people get into trouble because of this. People love updating things… its almost an obsession with people these days. Spurned by the psychology that “onwards is upwards” they think that something magic will happen and all their dreams will be realized. then… BOOOM!!! They are thrust into the bad lands, where nothing works the way they planned anymore and after 3 days of stress they get back to where they were and suddenly they are more appreciative of a working phone/computer/device. I like to think of this as the “Adventure Romance Phenomenon”, where two lovers on the verge of breakup/ have recently broken up/were married but live separate lives but are both lonely ( this list could go on ) who suddenly are put on a trial of nerves and physical endurance, by being chased by ninja/attacked by killer piranha/stalked by the Mafia/anything with Bruce Willis and at the end of it they realize that all they need is each other to be happy.

Software is exactly like this. Youll run around in circles and wish you were where you started. Of course big things , like computer operating systems, have so many functions and changes that its impossible to know whether they advantage/disadvantage will balance one way or another. It is also true that change is as good as a holiday, and some will upgrade just for the excitement of seeing a new icon or screensaver. This is ok as long as you are prepared to receive the consequences.

Windows Vista was an awesome example of a global downgrade. “Your computer working at 90%?? – well why not try Vista….?” – fo course that gamble didnt pay of for many and they were soon running at 45% efficiency, speding days updating drivers and wishing that had bought a one way ticket to Hell instead of that stupid upgrade.
Not to be biased against PC users, im sure most long term mac users had never upgraded to Lion over Snow Leopard. The Mission Control and backwards scrolling ideas were just ridiculous and annoying for everyone. Apples move towards iOS style interfaces for desktop users is just a silly mistake. Sure some features work, but some were obvious disasters. i still cant believe they didn’t scrap Mission control and get spaces back when they released Mountain Lion. of course apple doesn’t make mistakes ( cough!)

Ask any jailbreaker ( of any device… this term is not limited to iPhones and has been around for much longer. Its also referred to as “custom firmware”, which denotes modified software on a hardware chip built into a device running the bare bones functons of said device) will tell you, Most of the “upgrades” on devices just shut down exploits ( loopholes) in software that hackers have used to their advantage to trick the device into letting them modify code, or replace, or add. So by upgrading your not changing anything besides that. they are often called “security updates”, and patch the code so that exploit is shut down. Its like a game of cat and mouse and provides no benefit for you as a regular user.

Here as some actual good reasons to upgrade:

  • There is an actual, single security risk you are trying to avoid, which you understand how this fix will protect you from.
  • There is a new function that you cant live without, or new software you need, and are willing to trade it for one other you love ( even if you dont know what that is yet )
    (this is also true for Plugins for a tool like WordPress. Sometimes you really want that new gallery. But be prepared to lose your random image generator or other plugin you love. )
  • You are preparing yourself in advance of a predicted forced upgrade and have the time and inclination to fix it.
  • You are a computer wizard and like all the problems upgrading presents ( this is not a joke. Sometimes i upgrade to test my problem solving skills on a weekend or some time where i can get seriously nerdy )
    - of course i do this usually on a cloned version of a site or a site that is a) not live, or b) not important.
  • You are in love with a nerd, and have unlimited funds, so keep breaking your computer to get him/her over to your house.

There may be more, but you get the gist.


WORDPRESS

Now to the really important bit – WordPress. If you did not make your own site and have no particular reason to update your wordpress or its plugins, then DO NOT DO IT! It will only break your website. I know its tempting and it tells you you should, and you really want to click it, but dont…. ever. You will be on the phone to your web designer the next day, and don’t expect them to be ready to fix your website at a moments notice. Its not the web designers responsibility of any upgrades or changes that may happen to a system over time once the job is complete and the controls are transferred into the users hands. If you do that and need it fixed, you will have to pay someone to fix it, and if its broken enough, some parts of the site will need to be remade. This costs money and time.

A smarter move, would be that if you need new functions, consult someone in the know, who can recommend a direction for yo to go in, or if your site is database run ( which all wordpress are (using a MySQL Database)) Then get someone to clone it, then upgrade the copy and see what happens. Its like a backup of your site, and like any data backup is a good investment, You can keep backups of your database easily, and any wordpress user will show you how, using xCloner or Wp-DB Manager ( i use both) or a similar plugin. this database is not your website, but just the instructions for it. All physical media will be stored elsewhere and putting them back together is for experienced users, or those who can read instructions ( despite your presumed ability. this is not you ).

Anyway i hope this helps you make up your mind, upgrading is exciting but dangerous, but so is life. just be prepared.

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