Why Technical English

Video Games Platforms

October 6, 2010
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Composed by Galina Vitkova

 

Terminology

The term game platform refers to the particular combination of electronic or computer hardware which, in connection with low-level software, allows a video game to run. In general, a hardware platform means a group of compatible computers that can run the same software. A software platform comprises a major piece of software, as an operating system, operating environment, or a database, under which various smaller application programs can be designed to run. Below main platforms of video games are reviewed.   

  

Platforms for PC games 

PC games often require specialized hardware in the user’s computer in order to play, such as a specific generation of graphics processing unit or an Internet connection for online play, although these system requirements vary from game to game. In any case your PC hardware capabilities should meet minimum hardware requirements established for particular PC games. On the other side, many modern computer games allow, or even require, the player to use a keyboard and mouse simultaneously without demanding any additional devices. 

As of the 2000s, PC games are often regarded as offering a deeper and more complex experience than console games. 

 

Video game consoles platform

A video game console is an interactive entertainment computer or modified computer system that produces a video display signal which can be used with a display device to show video games.    

Usually, this system is connected to a common television set or composite video monitor. A composite monitor is any analog video display that receives input in the form of an analog composite video signal through a single cable. The monitor is different from a conventional TV set because it does not have an internal RF (Radio Frequency) tuner or RF converter. However, a user can install an external device that emulates a TV tuner. 

  

Handheld game consoles platform

A handheld game console is a lightweight, portable electronic device of a small size with a built-in screen, games controls and speakers. A small size allows people to carry handheld game consoles and play games at any time or place. 

A One Station handheld console with game

Image via Wikipedia

 The oldest true handheld game console with interchangeable cartridges is the Milton Bradley Microvision issued in 1979. 

Nintendo, with a popular handheld console concept released the Game Boy in 1989, and continues to dominate the handheld console market with successive Game Boy, and most recently Nintendo DS models.  

  

Handheld electronic games platform

In the past decade, handheld video games have currently become a major sector of the video game market. For example, in 2004 sales of portable software titles exceeded $1 billion in the United States. 

The Gizmondo handheld video game unit. United ...

Image via Wikipedia

Handheld electronic games are very small portable devices for playing interactive electronic games, often miniaturized versions of video games. The controls, display and speakers are all a part of a single unit. They usually have displays designed to play one game. Due to this simplicity they can be made as small as a digital watch, and sometimes are. Usually they do not have interchangeable cartridges, disks, etc., or are not reprogrammable.  The visual output of these games can range from a few small light bulbs or a light-emitting diode (LED) lights to calculator-like alphanumerical screens. Nowadays these outputs are mostly displaced by liquid crystal and Vacuum fluorescent display screens. Handhelds were most popular from the late 1970s into the early 1990s. They are both the precursors and inexpensive alternatives to the handheld game console. 

Mobile games platform

A mobile game is a video game played on a mobile phone, smartphone, PDA (Personal Digital Assistant), handheld computer or portable media player.  

The 16 best iPhone games of 2009

Image by docpop via Flickr

The first game that was pre-installed onto a mobile phone was Snake on selected Nokia models in 1997. Snake and its variants have since become the most-played video game on the planet, with over a billion people having played the game. Mobile games are played using the technologies present on the device itself. The games may be installed over the air, they may be side loaded onto the handset with a cable, or they may be embedded on the handheld devices by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or by the mobile operator. 

For networked games, there are various technologies in common use, for example, text message (SMS), multimedia message (MMS) or GPRS location identification. 

  

Arcade games 

The Simpsons arcade game by Konami

Image by Lost Tulsa via Flickr

An Arcade game is a coin-operated entertainment machine, usually installed in public businesses such as restaurants, public houses, and video arcades. Most arcade games are redemption games, merchandisers (such as claw crane), video games, or pinball machines. The golden age of video arcade games within the early 1980s was a peak era of video arcade game popularity, innovation, and earnings.     

Furthermore, by the late 1990s and early 2000s, networked gaming via console and computers across the Internet had appeared and replaced arcade games. The arcades also lost their a forefront position of the of new game releases. Having the choice between playing a game at an arcade three or four times (perhaps 15 minutes of play for a typical arcade game), and renting, at about the same price, the exact same game for a video game console, people selected the console. To remain viable, arcades added other elements to complement the video games such as redemption games, merchandisers, games that use special controllers largely inaccessible to home users. Besides, they equiped games with  reproductions of automobile or airplane cockpits, motorcycle or horse-shaped controllers, or highly dedicated controllers such as dancing mats and fishing rods. Moreover, today arcades extended their activities by food service etc. striving to become “fun centers” or “family fun centers”. 

All modern arcade games use solid state electronics and integrated circuits. In the past coin-operated arcade video games generally used custom per-game hardware often with multiple CPUs, highly specialized sound and graphics chips, and the latest in computer graphics display technology. Recent arcade game hardware is often based on modified video game console hardware or high-end PC components.

References:   http://en.wikipedia.org/

 

 

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Accumulate Your Vocabulary

September 25, 2010
2 Comments
                                          BGalina Vitkova   
 
  
          

Tips and steps

One of the most difficult work in studying a language is building and learning the language vocabulary. You should build your vocabulary all your life. But how? On the Internet and numerous English course books you can find ample tips and strategies that may help you in this sense.

In my opinion, based on my own experience and testing advices and recommendations of specialists in this area, the main, principal steps in building your own vocabulary are as follows: 

  • First of all, it is necessary to focus on several common ways to your vocabulary skills. Generally, building vocabulary goes from passive knowledge to active knowledge – by repeating a word so long until it becomes active vocabulary. This process requires time. So, be prepared for that and arm yourself with patience.
  • Learning vocabulary in groups of words appears to be much more effective than memorizing random lists. In this case words that are related to each other are more likely to be remembered over the long-term period.
  • The best way of learning words is to study and read systematically related texts and make a list of words of frequent occurrence.
  • Focusing on certain topics, which you are most interested in, brings good results, too;
  • For technical students and professionals such topics are comprised in technical texts typical and ultimate in their branch. Related activities include:
 
  • building a specialized list of common words appeared with high frequency in technical texts, which attract your attention,
  • building a list of professional words, expressions, collocations used in your branch,
  • building a list of words used in common communication (radio, TV, magazines, journals) to be able to understand discussions on topics that concern you;

After building such lists you can memorize them successfully.

Vocabulary Trees                                 

Vocabulary trees provide a solid ground for building your vocabulary and enhancing its level. People, especially students very often learn a new vocabulary by simply writing lists of new vocabulary words and then memorize these words by heart. Unfortunately, this technique generally brings only few positive consequences. Such learning helps you to pass exams, different tests, interviews etc. It leads to open up a kind of “short term” remembering. Vocabulary trees, on the other hand, provide a clue to “long term” memorization by placing vocabulary in connected categories. The example of a vocabulary tree on the right is taken up from http://esl.about.com/ .

A concept of vocabulary trees is applied in Improve Vocabulary with Vocabulary.Net Builder, which is strongly recommended to try. Enjoy the citrates from this publication:

“English vocabulary level has been shown to be strongly related to educational success. In addition, it is related to the level of occupation attained“. Bowker, R. (1981).

“A rich vocabulary is a valuable asset and an important attribute of success in any walk of life …”. Elley, W.B. (1988).

Vocabulary Tables

Vocabulary tables can help you in enriching your vocabulary based on different forms of a particular word that is known to you. If you build regularly vocabulary tables based on specific topics, namely in our case on technical topics, which you study or work in, you will certainly improve your knowledge of English.

Building tables on specific topics also helps to improve “long term” memory of related words. See below an example of such a vocabulary table based on words related to the post Speech and Handwriting Recognition in Windows 7 , which is the most popular last weeks:

NOUNS VERBS ADJECTIVES ADVERBS
availability, availableness   available availably
computer, computation, computerisation, computability compute, computerise computable,  computerisable,    
change change changeable changeably
implementation implement implementable  
improvement improve improvable  
recognition, recognisability recognise recognitive, recognisable recognisably
use, usage, usability use usable  

 

850 Words for Basic Conversational Fluency

Even if learning words from casual lists is certainly not the most effective method for long-term word remembering, it is very helpful to know what words are the most usable in English. It provides you with a good roadmap in studying the language. A list of such 850 words was published in 1930 in the book by Charles K. Ogden named Basic English: A General Introduction with Rules and Grammar.

The book contains basic verbs, articles, pronouns, prepositions, etc. split into categories. These 850 words should give you a solid basis for conversation. For more information about this list you can find in Ogden’s Basic English page. In any case, this list is an excellent starting point for building up a vocabulary that allows you to converse fluently in English.

Below the hyperlinks to these 850 Words are given:

Basics (verbs, articles, pronouns, prepositions, etc.)
General Nouns 1 – 200
General Nouns 201 – 400
Specific Nouns 1 – 200
Adjectives 1 – 150

For more advanced vocabulary building that helps you quickly improve your English study Kenneth Beare (http://esl.about.com/) recommends these vocabulary books. They will help you enhance your vocabulary, which is especially important for professional English knowledge.

 Use more your Dictionary

Since you can use it not only for finding words, but also in order to explain meanings of words, to improve your pronunciation by hearing words, in order to check spellings of less-known words and spelling variations, to find synonyms and more. Drop a look again at Dictionary – your best helper in mastering English words . There you will find the detailed information of possible usage of dictionaries for building your specialized vocabulary.

Read more about the topic at http://socyberty.com/languages/who-wants-to-improve-the-vocabulary/#ixzz0zzVciIw1 .

References

PS:

  • It is very helpful to be aware of what kind of the English reader you are. Complete Personality Quiz – What Kind of English Learner Are You?
  • Build your vocabulary and study English in compliance with your type of the English Learner!
  • In Free Rice you can find a very nice game that helps you in learning English words. English grammar and other topics. At the same time the game will entertain you.

 

 


Contemporary gaming

August 29, 2010
2 Comments
Composed by Galina Vitkova

 

Dear friends of Technical English!

Having finished discussing new features of Windows 7 we were looking for topics that could be proper for studying Technical English. After a relatively short time we have chosen computer games for reasons as follows:

  • This topic may be interesting for a larger amount of people studying and needing English. Effectiveness of studying interesting subjects that fascinate you is, as well-known, much higher;
  • In PC games many general methods and instruments that are commonly used for building software applications and systems are applied, too. It means that the same terminology is used in both cases. Thus studying technical texts about PC games we can significantly enrich our professional vocabulary by those technical terms;
  • Games contribute to development of communication skills and reaction readiness, the interest to a game strengthen your ability to remember or memorize new words and expressions;
  • PC games, in spite of their controversial reputation, provide a good means for relaxation.

Enjoy the text and participate in discussion!

 

Contemporary gaming

Personal Computer games (also known as computer games or PC games) have evolved from the simple graphics and gameplays of early titles like Spacewar to a wide range of more visually advanced titles.

 

Playing Spacewar

Image by Marcin Wichary via Flickr

 

 

Although personal computers only became popular with the development of microprocessors, mainframes and minicomputers, computer gaming has existed since at least the 1960s. The first generation of  PC games were often text adventures or interactive fictions, in which the player communicated with the computer by entering commands through a keyboard. Increasing adoption of the computer mouse, and high resolution bitmap displays allowed to include increasingly high-quality graphical interfaces in new releases. Further improvements to games were made with the introduction of the first sound cards in 1987. These cards allowed IBM PC compatible computers to produce complex sounds using frequency modulation (FM synthesis). Previously those computers had been limited to simple tones and beeps.

 

Xbox 360 Case Mod - mosaic Tomb Raider Legend case

 

By 1996, the rise of Microsoft Windows and success of 3D console titles gave rise to great interest in hardware accelerated 3D graphics on the IBM PC compatible computers, and soon resulted in attempts to produce affordable solutions. Tomb Raider, which was released in 1996, was one of the first shooter games acclaimed for its revolutionary graphics. However, major changes to the Microsoft Windows operating system made many older MS-DOS-based games unplayable on Windows NT, and later, Windows XP without using an emulator. The faster graphics accelerators and improving CPU technology resulted in increasing levels of realism in computer games. During this time, the improvements have allowed developers to increase the complexity of modern game engines. PC gaming currently tends strongly toward improvements in 3D graphics.

Concurrently, many game publishers began to experiment with new forms of marketing. Nowadays episodic gaming is chief among these alternative strategies. This kind of gaming is an adaptation of the older concept of expansion packs, in which game content is provided in smaller quantities but for a proportionally lower price. Titles such as Half-Life 2: Episode One took advantage of the idea, with mixed results rising from concerns for the amount of content provided for the price.

The multi-purpose nature of personal computers often allows users to modify the content of installed games with relative ease in comparison with console cames. The console games are generally difficult to modify without a proprietary means. Furthermore, they are often protected by legal and physical barriers against tampering. Contrary to it, the personal computer version of games may be modified using common, easy-to-obtain software. Users can then distribute their customised version of the game (commonly known as a mod) by any means they choose.

The inclusion of map editors, such as UnrealEd with the retail versions of many games that have been made available online, allow users to create modifications for games smoothly. Moreover, the users may use for this purpose tools that are maintained by the games’ original developers. In addition, companies such as id Software have released the source code to older game engines. Thus they enable creation of entirely new games and major changes to existing ones.

Modding have allowed much of the community to produce game elements that would not normally be provided by the developer of the game. Due to it expanding or modifying normal gameplays to varying degrees has been enabled.

References:   http://en.wikipedia.org/


Changing the theme of this blog

August 26, 2010
1 Comment
By Galina Vitkova

Dear visitors of my blog Why Technical English!

Circumstances wanted me to change the theme (graphical arrangement of this blog). I liked very much a former theme. I think it was ideally suited to the content of my blog. Nevertheless, I believe that the new theme will fit in with the content of the blog as well as the former one. In any case the content of the blog is the most important thing beyond a doubt and the content has been kept. Moreover, the change of the theme forced me to elaborate a classified list of posts on the blog. Now you can find the posts that are the most interesting for you much easier. Just look through the sidebar and choose appropriate post in the List of tech texts on power engineering or in the List of tech texts on computers etc. In fact there are eleven of such lists, i.e. (posts in individual lists are ordered by the date of their publishing):

  • List of Posts: Tech texts on computers;
  • List of Posts: Tech texts on WEB;
  • List of Posts: Tech texts on power engineering and renewables;
  • List of Posts: Tech texts on robots;
  • List of Posts: Tech texts on genetics;
  • List of Posts: Interviews;
  • List of Posts: Grammar issues in tech texts;
  • List of Posts: Students´ opinion on Tech English;
  • List of Posts about Technical Writing;
  • List of Posts about SKYPE conversation;
  • List of Posts: Miscellaneous.

 

Image representing Microsoft as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

 

The content of individual lists comprises as follows:

List of Posts: Tech texts on computers

List of Posts: Tech texts on WEB

List of Posts: Tech texts on power engineering and renewables

 List of Posts: Tech texts on robots

List of Posts: Tech texts on genetics

List of Posts: Interviews

 List of Posts: Dictionaries and Grammar issues in tech texts

 List of Posts: Students´ opinion on Tech English

List of Posts about Technical Writing

List of Posts about SKYPE conversation

 List of Posts: Miscellaneous

Good luck in study Technical English using the posts on this blog!


Comparative costs of electricity from different sources

April 26, 2010
3 Comments
                                                                            Composed by Galina Vitkova 

Renewable sources have been gaining more and more sympathies of common people and governments too. Their shares have been growing, especially in Europe and Northern America. You can make sure of it looking through Fig. 1 below

Fig. 1 – Shares of renewables in 2005 and 2020

But first of all, renewables are very expensive. Relative costs of generating electricity from different sources, which are shown on the next graph, support it with evidence.

The costs are calculated taking into consideration several internal cost factors. These factors are as follows:

  • Capital costs (including waste disposal and decommissioning costs, especially for nuclear power plants – NPPs) – tend to be low for fossil fuel power stations; high for renewables and nuclear power plants; very high for waste to energy, wave and tidal, photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal power installations.
  • Operating and maintenance costs – tend to be high for nuclear, coal, and waste-to-energy power stations (fly and bottom ash disposal, emissions clean up, operating steam generators) and low for renewables and oil and gas fired peaking units.
  • Fuel costs – high for fossil fuel and biomass sources, very low for nuclear and renewables, possibly negative for waste to energy power plants.
  • Expected annual hours run – as low as 3% for diesel peakers, 30% for wind, and up to 90% for nuclear power stations.

Comparative costs of electricity produced by different source of primary energy and calculated, using the above mentioned factors, are depicted  in Fig.2. 

Fig. 2 – Comparative costs of electricity

USA Generating costs in May 2008 given in Fig. 3 also support this fact.

Fig. 3 – US Generating costs in 2008

Nonetheless, in long term context the costs should equal according to different forecasts – see, for example Fig. 4.

 

Fig. 4 – Long term cost trends

Besides high costs the other serious problem connected with renewables concerns their intermittence. It means that a wind power installation generate electricity when wind blows and similarly a solar plant produces electricity when the Sun shines. But consumers require and consume electricity when they need it, e.g. in the mornings, evenings i.e. mostly at the time quit different from the time when wind blows or the Sun shines. So, means for energy balancing, which is limited, in order to meet consumers´ demands (see a detailed analysis of the issue in Renewable energy – our downfall? by Ralph Ellis and in posts If we don´t interest in the energy future, we may see its collapse and Is the „green“ energy really free?). Nowadays, some gas power plants or hydro power plants are used to balance the variation … With more intermittent renewables in the electricity grid they will have to do this much more often and situation could become intricate, maybe unsolvable.

The problem is not lack of wind or solar (etc.) energy, it is a fact that at times there may be too much wind or sun. Different operational and economic conflicts will arise, especially at time of low electricity demands. Energy storage (e.g. pumped hydro) and export through new inter-connections could help (for teach-in how serious the situation is see Renewable energy – our downfall?).

References:


Speech and Handwriting Recognition in Windows 7

March 30, 2010
6 Comments

By P.B.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any practical experience with speech or handwriting recognition. However, I would like to get the experience and to use these new features of Windows 7 when communicating with my computer.

Speech recognition

It is included free as a part of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems. The version in Windows 7 is actually unchanged, though some small improvements – such as an expanded dictionary – have been involved.

When a user wants to implement the function Speech recognition, he must do 3 steps:

  1. To set the microphone using a menu:  Start – Settings – Easy access – Speech recognition – Set the microphone.  For faster recognition it is necessary to have a good microphone (in order to avoid background noise). It is better to use a headset microphone than a desktop one.
  2. To learn speaking to the computer – the Windows contains a program which teaches users to use common commands (e.g. open the file, close the folder) in 30 minutes.
  3. To teach the computer to recognize user´s speech – during usage of speech recognition the computer improves its ability to recognize a specific user´s voice profile.

The function Speech recognition is available in English, French, Spanish, German, Japanese and Chinese (Traditional and Simplified).

Handwriting

Microsoft has been working on handwriting recognition for over 15 years (from Windows 3.0). There were Only 12 languages are available in the Windows Vista.  In the Windows 7 more languages are included and for us it is important that Czech language is in the package. The language, in which the operating system is installed, and English language as well can be always usable for handwriting recognition, but when you need to recognize handwriting in another language besides English, you must have Windows 7 Ultimate and download an additional package.

The reason why all languages, used in countries where Windows may be applied, aren’t included in Windows 7 is simple. For each new language it is necessary to collect samples of native handwriting, to analyze collected data and cleanse it. So, development of a new handwriting recognizer starts with a huge data collection effort. Millions words and characters of a written text are collected from tens of thousands of writers. The problems are that some languages have special characters or accents and people in different regions learn to write in different ways. Differences exist even between countries with the same language as between the UK and US, for example. Characters that may look visually very similar to you can actually be quite different to the computer. This is why it is necessary to collect real data about how characters, punctuation marks and other shapes are exactly written.

Before start of data collecting, recognizer developers configure collection tools, prepare documentation and compile language scripts in the labs. Once tools and scripts are ready, the labs are opened and volunteers may donate their handwriting samples. In the course of samples evaluating a gender, age, left handiness and educational background are taken into consideration. A collection session lasts 60-90 minutes. The donated data is then uploaded and stored in a Microsoft database for future use.

 


Biofuels Reduce Emissions (part 1)

March 6, 2010
1 Comment

 Special Interview Reveals How Czech Biofuels Are

Ing. Jiří Souček, CSc. (SoJ), who participated on biofuel research in the Czech Republic, answered questions posed by Galina Vitkova (ViG)

 
ViG:  According to REN21 the Czech Republic produced 18kTOE (thousand Metric Tons of Oil Equivalent) of bioethanol in 2007, in 2008 it counts 38kTOE (i.e. 0.1 % of total world production). Is this amount of practical importance? ViG: Podle údajů REN21 vyrobila ČR v r. 2007 bioetanolu v počtu 16 tis. tun ropného ekvivalentu, v 2008 – 38 tis. tun (0,1 % od celkové světové produkce biopaliva). Má to praktický význam?
SoJ:  In 2007 the law about obligation of biofuel usage in propellants didn´t exist. In 2008 60kTOE of bioethanol were produced whereas 20kTOE were exported and 30kTOE were imported. Consumption of bioethanol amounted to 50kTOE. As for biodiesel 75kTOE of it were produced while its consumption made 85kTOE.Minimal amount of biofuel additive to propellants is set by the Czech Republic law coming out from the Directive EU 203/30/ES. Since 2010 the minimal additive of bioethanol to gasoline will make 4.5 %, while biodiesel additive to diesel will amount to 6.3 %. It corresponds to consumption of about 100 kTOE of bioethanol and 200 kTOE of biodiesel. SoJ:  V roce 2007 nebyla zákonná povinnost použití biopaliv v pohonných hmotách. V roce 2008 bylo v ČR vyrobeno 60 tis. tun bioetanolu  a vyvezeno 20 tis. tun. Bylo dovezeno 30 tis. tun bioetanolu. Spotřebováno bylo 50 tis. tun. Dále bylo vyrobeno 75 tis. tun bionafty a spotřebováno 85 tis. tun.

Minimální množství přídavku biopaliv do pohonných hmot je stanoveno zákonem ČR, který vychází ze směrnice EU 203/30/ES. Od roku 2010 bude minimální přídavek bioetanolu do benzinu činit 4,5 % obj. a bionafty do motorové nafty 6,3 % obj. To odpovídá spotřebě cca 100 tis. tun bioetanolu a 200 tis. tun bionafty.

ViG:  What is, in your opinion, the main importance of biofuels for the Czech Republic? ViG: V čem je podle Vás největší přínos nebo největší význam biopaliv pro ČR? 
SoJ:  The importance of biofuels for production of heat, electricity and usage in propellants for the Czech Republic and other countries lies chiefly in:

  • substitute of fossil fuels which will be exhausted
  • decreasing emission of exhausted and greenhouse gases, which. improves environment
  • decreasing carbon dioxide emission, which declines our planet warming
  • diminution of dependence on oil and gas import
  • supporting  uncultivated farmlands usage.
SoJ:  Význam biopaliv používaných pro výrobu tepla, elektrické energie a jako motorová paliva je pro ČR a jiné země zvláště v tom, že:

  • nahrazují fosilní paliva, která jsou vyčerpatelná
  • snižuji exhalací výfukových plynů, tj. zlepšují životní prostředí
  • snižuji emisí oxidu uhličitého, snižuji riziko oteplování planety,
  • snižuji závislost na dovozu ropy a zemního plynu
  • napomáhají k využití neobdělávané zemědělské půdy.
ViG: Could you cite kinds of biofuels produced in the Czech Republic (bioethanol, biodiesel)?  ViG: Můžete uvést druhy biopaliva vyráběné v ČR (etanol, biodiesel)? 
SoJ:  In the Czech Republic bioethanol (alcohol) and biodiesel (MEŘO) are produced. SoJ:  V ČR se vyrábí  bioetanol (líh) a bionafta (biodiesel, MEŘO).
ViG:  Which plants are biofuels produced from in the Czech Republic?   ViG:  Z jakých rostlin se vyrábí biopalivo v ČR? 
SoJ:  In the Czech Republic bioethanol is produced from sugar beet and corn while is produced from oil rape. SoJ:  V ČR se vyrábí  bioetanol z cukrové řepy a z obilí a bionafty (biodiesel, MEŘO) z řepky olejné.
ViG:  Is it possible to import biofuels to the Czech Republic?  ViG:  Je možné dovážet biopaliva do ČR? 
SoJ:  Despite biofuel production capacities in the Czech Republic are bigger than their consumption bioethanol and biediesel are imported, too. On the other hand, Czech producers export these products. It is a free market.  SoJ:  Přestože výrobní kapacity na výrobu biopaliv v ČR jsou vyšší než spotřeba, bioetanol i bionafta se částečně dovážejí. Z druhé strany čeští výrobci biopaliv tyto produkty vyvážejí. Jde o volný trh.
ViG:  How can we prevent deforestation or pluvial woods or palm groves cutting (which already occurs)?  ViG:  Jak zabránit tomu, aby se nekácely deštné lesy, palmové háje (což už se stává?) 
SoJ:  Palm groves are not cut. Contrariwise, pluvial woods are cut for planting crops including foundation of palm plantations. This process, the goal of which is gain soil for planting, has been lasting for decades or hundreds of years. Nowadays this process is said to be activated  by palm oil usage for production of biodiesel. But this is not a crucial reason.According to the EU Directive on biofuels for road transport 2009/28/ES biofuel producers will be certified by set criteria of sustainability. One of the criterions is that feedstocks for biofuel production must not be grown up on soils with a large amount of carbon, which is typical for soils after cutting woods. SoJ:  Palmové háje se nekácejí. Naopak deštné lesy se kácejí pro výsadbu zemědělských plodin včetně zakládání palmových plantáží. Tento proces, jehož smyslem je získání zemědělské půdy, trvá několik desetiletí ba století. V současné době se uvádí, že proces je ovlivněn využitím palmového oleje na výrobu bionafty. Nejde však o rozhodující vliv.Podle nové směrnice EÚ o biopalivech pro silniční dopravu č. 2009/28/ES, budou výrobci biopaliv certifikování podle stanovených kriterií udržitelnost. Jedno z kritérií je, že suroviny pro výrobu biopaliv nesmí být pěstovány na půdách s velkou zásobou uhlíku, což je i půda po vykácených lesech. 
ViG:  What about soil erosion, side-dressing soils for cultivation of plants for biofuel production?  ViG:  Co erose půdy, hnojení půdy při pěstování rostlin pro výrobu biopaliva? 
SoJ:  In my opinion, the soils should be used not only for food production, but yet for other needs of our society including energy demands. Formerly thermal energy was mostly got from woods. Today large pieces of land are used for cultivating plants for technical purposes like textile fibers (cotton, linen, hemp), paper (cellulose), biochemical products (sugars), etc. It concerns priorities, which are different in individual countries. Priority number 1 is food. In the Czech Republic agriculture covers all food needs, alongside 600 th. hectares of arable soil lie fallow, rape is cultivated on 350 th. hectares.Either we let the soils lie fallow without composting, weedy and scrubby or we use them for cultivation of required technical plants, which need the same composting as cultivating plants for food. SoJ:  Jsem toho názoru, že půda má být využívaná nejen pro produkci potravin, ale i pro další potřeby společnosti, včetně zabezpečení energie. Dříve většina tepelné energie byla získávána ze dřeva. Dnes jsou značné plochy využívány pro výrobu technických produktů, jako jsou textilní vlákna (bavlna, len, konopí) papír (celulóza) biochemické produkty (cukry) aj. Jde o otázku priorit, které jsou v různých zemích jiné. Prioritní je zabezpečení výživy. V ČR zemědělství plně pokrývá potřeby potravin, při čemž je 600 tis. ha orné půdy ponecháno ladem a řepka se pěstuje na cca 350 tis. ha.   Buď ponecháme další půdu ladem bez hnojení, na které budou růst plevele, nebo ji využijeme pro pěstování potřebných technických plodin, které vyžadují stejné hnojení, jako pěstování plodin pro výživu.
ViG:  What about enlarged consumption of water during cultivation of plants and biofuel production?  ViG:  Co se zvýšenou spotřebou vody při pěstování rostlin a výrobě biopaliva? 
SoJ:  Cultivating plants for energy production does not require enlarged consumption of water. The process of biodiesel production is not water-consuming, bioethanol production requires enlarged amount of water, but not extremely large. It is mainly about cooling water that circulates during the process. SoJ:  Při pěstování rostlin pro energetické účely není zvýšena spotřeba vody. Proces výroby bionafty není náročný na spotřebu vody, výroba bioetanolu má vyšší spotřebu ne však mimořádnou. Jde hlavně o vody chladící, které se ve výrobě cirkulují
ViG:  What is energy effectivity of Czech biofuels (the ratio of depleted energy to energy which is produced from biofuels)?  ViG:  Jaká je energetická efektivita českého biopaliva (poměr energie spotřebované na výrobu biopaliva k energii vyráběné z biopaliva)? 
SoJ:  Energy demandingness of biofuel production depends on row materials used and technological level of their cultivation, then on the technology of fuel production itself, on transporting row materials and biofuels, on usage of secondary products and energy calorific capacity of mass-produced biofuels. Main installations producing biodiesel expend for producing one TOE of biodiesel (MEŘO) 21 GJ energy (incl. rape cultivation), while produced biodiesel has 61 GJ energy capacity. It means the input energy is about triply valued.Energy demandingness of bioethanol production is larger, especially when it is made from corn.

Energy demandingness of conventional oil fuels is lesser than biofuel production.

SoJ:  Energetická náročnost výroby biopaliv závisí na použitých surovinách a úrovni technologie jejich pěstování, dále na technologii výroby vlastního biopaliva, na dopravě surovin a výrobků, na využití pobočných produktů a na energetickém obsahu vyráběného biopaliva. Hlavní výrobní jednotky bionafty v ČR spotřebují na výrobu jedné tuny paliva (MEŘO) 21 GJ energie (včetně pěstování řepky) a produkují se výrobky s energetickým obsahem 61 GJ. To znamená, že vložená energie se zhodnotí téměř trojnásobně.Energetická náročnost výroby bioetanolu je vyšší zvláště při výrobě z obilí. 

Energetická náročnost klasických ropných paliv je nižší než výroba biopaliv

ViG:  How much does biofuel transporting cost in the Czech Republic?  ViG:  Kolik činí náklady na dopravu biopaliva v ČR?
SoJ:  In view of using only own feedstocks for biofuel production and due to the fact that factories producing biofuels (refineries) are situated close to users transporting expenses are minimal. In comparison with the most of EU states they are very reasonable.   SoJ:  Vzhledem k tomu, že se k výrobě biopaliv využívají zemědělské produkty vlastní produkce a výrobní jednotky biopaliv jsou instalovány v blízkosti uživatelů (rafinerie) jsou dopravní náklady minimální a proti většině států EU jsou velmi příznivé.
  

Abbreviations used in the Interview

k, th. = thousand

TOE = Metric Tons of Oil Equivalent

kTOE = thousand of Metric Tons of Oil Equivalent                                               

 REN21 = Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century  

(http://www.ren21.net )

 
 

Multi-touch functions of Windows 7

December 18, 2009
2 Comments
                                                                                                 Compiled by Galina Vitkova

Already in 2007 Windows 7 were said to have new touch features. An overview of the multi-touch capabilities, including a virtual piano program, a mapping and directions program and a touch-aware version of Paint, was demonstrated at the All Things Digital Conference on May 27, 2008. A video demonstrating the multi-touch capabilities was later made available on the web.

Let us specify some necessary term. A touchscreen is a display that can detect the presence and location of a touch by a finger or hand within the display area. The touchscreen has two main properties. First, it enables one to interact with what is displayed directly on the screen. Second, it lets one do so without requiring any intermediate device, again, like a stylus, for instance. Such displays can be attached to computers or, as terminals, to networks. They also play a prominent role in the design of digital appliances such as the personal digital assistant (PDA), satellite navigation devices, mobile phones, and video games.

Multi-Touch, which is a trademark of Apple, Inc., concerns the same technology that allows the user to interact with the device by placing two or more fingers directly onto the surface of the screen. The movement of the fingers across the screen creates gestures, which send commands to the device.

Gesture recognition is topically used in computer science and language technology for goal interpreting human gestures via mathematical algorithms. Gestures can originate from any bodily motion or state but commonly originate from the face or hand. Current focuses in the field include emotion recognition from the face and hand gesture recognition. The gesture recognition can be seen as a way for computers to begin to understand human body language. Thus it may build a more sophisticated connection between machines and humans than primitive text user interfaces or even GUIs (graphical user interfaces), which still embraces the majority of input to keyboard and mouse.

However, the gesture recognition enables humans to interface with the machine (HMI) and interact naturally without any mechanical devices. Using the concept of gesture recognition, it is possible to point a finger at the computer screen so that the cursor will move accordingly. This could potentially make conventional input devices such as mouse, keyboards and even touch-screens redundant. Finally, gesture recognition can be conducted with techniques from computer vision and image processing.

In general, multi-touch requires a touch screen (screen, overlay, table, wall, etc.) or touchpad, as well as software that recognizes multiple simultaneous touch points, as opposed to the single touch screen, which recognizes only one touch point. This effect is achieved through a variety of means, including heat, finger pressure, high capture rate cameras, infrared light, optic capture, tuned electromagnetic induction, ultrasonic receivers, transducer microphones, laser rangefinders, and shadow capture.

Although the first hints and discussions of multi-touch technology appeared already at the end of 20th century, mainstream exposure to this technology occurred in 2007, when Apple unveiled the iPhone and Microsoft debuted surface computing. The iPhone in particular has spawned a wave of interest in multi-touch computing because it permits greatly increased user interaction on a small scale. Gradually more robust and user-friendly multi-touch and gesture-based solutions have been becoming available.

Windows 7 is the first version of Windows that supports multi-touch without the addition of third party add-ons.(See for more details Multi-Touch Systems that I Have Known and Loved by Bill Buxton). The operating system is known to have a multi-touch mapping application, photo viewing program, and incorporation in Internet Explorer 8. In January 2009, Microsoft joined with other investors who invested twenty-four million dollars in N-Trig Ltd., which plans to make computer hardware that takes advantage of Windows 7’s multi-touch support.

In the end let´s put some notes on a touch-aware version of Paint (formerly Paintbrush for Windows). It is a simple graphics painting program that has been included with all versions of Microsoft Windows. It is often referred to as MS Paint or Microsoft Paint. The program opens and saves files as Windows bitmap with the .bmp extension, JPEG, GIF (without animation), PNG (without alpha channel), and TIFF (without the multiple pages). The program can be in colour mode or two-colour black-and-white, but there is no grayscale mode. For its simplicity, it rapidly became one of the most used applications in the early versions of Windows and still has strong associations with the immediate usability of the old Windows workspace.

The Windows 7 version of paint makes use of the Ribbon UI (User Inteface).   In GUI-based application software, a ribbon is an interface where a set of toolbars are placed on tabs in a tab bar. Recent releases of some Microsoft applications have comprised this form with an tricky modular ribbon as their main interface. The Ribbon can also contain tabs to expose different sets of control elements eliminating the need for a lot of different icon based toolbars.

It similarly provides “artistic” brushes composed of varying shades of gray and some transparency that give a more realistic result. In order to increase feeling of the realism, the oil and water colour brushes can only paint for a small distance before the user must re-click. This gives the illusion that the paint brush has run out of paint. It l has anti-aliased shapes as well, which can be resized freely until they are rasterised when another tool is selected. This version supports viewing (but not saving) transparent PNG and ICO file formats and saves in the PNG file format by default.

References:

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia –  http://en.wikipedia.org


About writing essays, professional reports, etc.

December 16, 2009
1 Comment
By Galina Vitkova

 

I have recently read an interesting article by Charles Howell titled Writing Your Report – 5 Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make. I have been very surprised by how some situations described in the article are similar to my experience. Really many students make mistakes, which easily avoidable.

 

First of all, a citation from the article

“For some reason, students writing papers love to use extremely long sentences. Some do this to fill up the page requirements, while others do it to appear as if they know more about the subject and sound ‘scholarly’. Narrative is good, but don’t let it become fluff.”

My students also love writing too long sentences. Some of them are able to write a 100 word long essay comprising only one sentence. These are really extremely long sentences, but I quite usually recommend dividing of a long sentence in an essay into two or even three shorter sentences. However, I am of opinion that students cannot stop in explaining or narrating their thoughts rather than they try to make the teacher think how clever and erudite they are.

Whatever the case may be I admire and endorse a slogan K.I.S.S. introduced by the author of the article, which means “Keep It Short and Simple”. It seems to be great and pertinent in this case.

 

Another citation:

“If you are doing technical writing, or scientific writing avoid using passive sentences. these documents should be as straightforward as possible, especially if you ever want to see them published. Try to keep in mind that in scientific papers, people will be trying to reproduce your experiments. These people will not always be native English speakers, and will be more impressed with an easily understandable report than one from somebody who tried to use too much jargon in order to seem like an expert.”

I am afraid in this case I cannot agree with the author. In my opinion passive sentences are very frequently used in technical writing for one serious reason. In technical writing as a rule we very often need to explain or describe how a procedure, equipment, software program, etc. work or function. Their executor is usually not so important. Let us consider for instance pairs of sentences:

 

 

Active Voice

Passive Voice

 

1

Microsoft released Windows 7 on 22 October 2009.

Windows 7 was released (by Microsoft – usually it is not necessary to add that) on 22 October 2009.

2

Americans built the first solar power plant, which supplies electricity to the local electricity network, in the desert Mojave in California.

The first solar power plant, which supplies electricity to the local electricity network, was built (by Americans –it is not commonly said, it is clear) in the desert Mojave in California.

3

The computer controls a robot´s physical body,

A robot´s physical body (“body” is important, so it should be on the first place) is controlled by the computer.

4

Joints connect together the individual segments of a robot´s physical body.

 The individual segments of a robot´s physical body are connected together with joints (joints could connect together many things, but for us it is important that robots´body segments are connected with joints ).

 

 

 

 

All examples in column B – the passive voice, and they are much more effective than in column A and get to the point.

So, use the passive voice when you want to emphasize actions, results of actions etc. not the person responsible for the action or the source of the action etc.

 

Let us consider another citation:

“I can’t believe that it’s necessary to write about this, but every time I get a batch of reports, there are numerous spelling errors in as many as half of them. Being able to spell correctly is one of the key effective writing skills that teachers notice immediately. It doesn’t matter how well written your report is if, when the teacher looks over it again there are red marks on every page. Deciding the final score on an academic report is a VERY subjective process, and those red marks really DO make a difference. Every word processing program on the market had a decent spell checker – USE IT!”

I have quite the same experience. Although every editor has a check speller at present, many students do not use it. And not anywhere near they use the thesaurus (see Thesaurus – what’s up with it) to make their writing more beautiful and attractive for readers.

 

And finally about the proper format of writing

In English technical or professional writing it needs to keep some style. When issuing a technical report, an essay, or offering and article to a journal, newspaper or somewhere like that everything should be written in a style which a publisher demands. So take it seriously. Remember that technical writing is a tool of non-verbal communication for science and technical projects and you should respect appropriate rules when communicating.

If you aren’t sure about the writing format, which, for example, the journal where you would like to publish your writing demands, ask them. You might even ask them for a few writing samples you can look at to make sure you get the formatting correct. Some publishers are very picky about this. Find out what format this or that journal or other publisher demands and use it.

There are four styles recommended for usage in professional writing. It means if you write something for English or American journals use formats APA style or MLA style or Chicago/Turabian style or StyleEase.

For those who have never about these styles of writing, there is short information on a proper format of style from Wikipedia:

 

MLA (Modern Language Association of America)style

The newest MLA is characterized in the third edition MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (2008) The manual was first published by the Modern Language Association of America in 1985. It is an academicstyle guide widely used in the United States, Canada, and other countries. It provides guidelines for writing and documenting research in the humanities, especially in English studies. The MLA’s “guidelines are also used by over 1,100 scholarly and literary journals, newsletters, and magazines and by many university and commercial presses”. Moreover, they are “followed throughout North America and in Brazil, China, India, Japan, Taiwan, and other countries around the world”.

 

APA (American Psychological Association) style

APA Style was first developed 80 years ago by a group of social scientists who wanted to establish sound standards of communication. Since then, it has been adopted by leaders in many fields and has been used by writers around the world.

The best scientific writing is scanty and straightforward. It draws attention to the ideas being presented.  So, the manuscript structure, word choice, punctuation, graphics, and references are all chosen to move the idea forward with a minimum of distraction and a maximum of precision. The APA rules of style concern punctuation and abbreviations, construction of tables, selection of headings, citation of references, and presentation of statistics.

APA style rules and guidelines are set out in a reference book titled The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.

Chicago/Turabian style

This is a Chicago style of writing and formatting research reports, theses, and dissertations, for students and researchers developed in the University of Chicago and commonly known as Turabian style. The newest version of A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations comprising appropriate rules is published by the University of Chicago Press in November 2009. The style includes International Standard Bibliographic Description , too.

Style  Ease

StyleEase has been producing great software for academic writers since 1991. If you’re really uncertain about formatting and you do not know publisher´s requirements, get a formatting tool like StyleEase to make it easier. There are four software tools for that, i.e. StyleEase for APA Style,  StyleEase for MLA Style, StyleEase for Chicago/Turabian Style, and StyleEase for Seminary Style.

Just remember what is recommended above and check everything you have written before handing your piece of work in.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wikiWikipedia – free encyclopedia

http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Charles_Howell


Windows Media Center

November 30, 2009
2 Comments
Composed by Galina Vitkova

Windows Media Center is an application with a 10-foot user interface designed to serve as a home-entertainment hub for the living-room TV. Windows XP Media Center Edition, premium editions of Windows Vista (Vista Home Premium and Vista Ultimate) and Windows 7 (all editions, except Starter and Home Basic) comprise it. The Media Center is controlled by special remote controls or remotes. At the same time it can be operated with a mouse and/or a keyboard, too. The Media Center plays the computer user’s pictures, videos, and music from local hard drives, optical drives, and network locations. All this is then categorized by name, date, tags, and other file attributes.

Media managed through the Media Center can also be relayed via a home network to standard TV sets via the specially designed Windows Media Center Extender or the Xbox 360. This allows to use the Media Center and its features (such as view photos, videos, listen to music, watch live television, watch recorded TV, etc.) on the television set or other display device.

The advantage with these devices is that the household’s primary computer (hosting the Media Center) can be physically set up in a location more appropriate for its role, instead of being in the living room. Furthermore, the Media Center with an Extender can be accessed at the same time by several users. The Xbox 360 gaming console is a very popular example of a Media Center Extender. By the way, Xbox 360 is the only device that can work as an extender with both Windows XP Media Center as well as Windows Vista Media Center.

Windows 7 Media Center comprises all prosperous characteristics of its forerunners and brings new possibilities. Thus the performance improvement on Extenders is immediately apparent especially with the play functions like fast forward, rewind, and skip. The menus are also more manageable. The other big improvement concerns EPG (Electronic program guide), which makes utilities like Guide Tool possible. The Guide Tool is a Windows Media Center guide management application, which apart from other things enables local and remote guide management and other funny functions (see Guide Tool).

The new guide is visually better, it includes images throughout, as well as provides new ways to navigate. Moreover, all the tuners can be combined per channel to help resolve conflicts and give you control over which tuners are used for which channels. Additionally, new APIs (Application programming interface) are available there which permits to inject logos for each channel and create utilities to edit the line-up. Further, it offers the best of all around DVR (Digital video recorder) solution available today. It is even possible to import custom data, but regrettably you can´t easily backup them. At the same time it is actually extremely stable. (See for more details Windows 7 Media Center review ).

The Windows 7 Media Center undoubtedly exceeds the Vista Media Center. Microsoft has again raised the bar and has manufactured something which moves everybody beyond, even if the competition is still exists. Nevertheless, unluckily this Center isn’t for everyone. The upfront cost with the potential maintenance expenses is the most outstanding barrier to overcome.

For all that, the extant experience with Microsoft products make us believe that prices will come down and common people will afford to have Windows 7 Media Center.  

 

Windows 7 Media Center miniguide

Windows 7 Media Center miniguide

 

References

http://www.engadget.com  (Windows 7 Media Center review )

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_7


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