Why Technical English

Nuclear energy future after Fukushima

March 23, 2011
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Composed by Galina Vitkova

What the damage to the Fukushima plant (see picture below) forecasts for Japan—and the world? But first, let us introduce general description of nuclear power stations in order to sense problems caused by the breakdown. 

 

The Fukushima 1 NPP

Image via Wikipedia

 Nuclear fission. Nowadays nuclear power stations generate energy using nuclear fission (Fukushima belongs to this type of nuclear power plants). Atoms of uranium (235) rods in the reactor are split in the process of fission and cause a chain reaction with other nuclei. During this process a large amount of energy is released. The energy heats water to create steam, which rotates a turbine together with a generator, producing electricity.

Depending on the type of fission, presumptions for ensuring supply of the fuel at existing level varies from several decades for the Uranium-235 to thousands of years for uranium-238. At the present rate of use, uranium-235 reserves (as of 2007) will be exhausted in about 70 years. The nuclear industry persuades that the cost of fuel makes a minor cost component for fission power. In future, mining of uranium sources could be more expensive, more difficult. However, increasing the price of uranium would have little brought about the overall cost of nuclear power. For instance, a doubling in the cost of natural uranium would increase the total cost of nuclear power by 5 percent. On the other hand, double increasing of natural gas price results in 60 percent growth of the cost of gas-fired power.

The possibility of nuclear meltdowns and other reactor accidents, such as the Three Mile Island accident and the Chernobyl disaster, have caused much public concern. Nevertheless, coal and hydro- power stations have both accompanied by more deaths per energy unit produced than nuclear power generation.

At present, nuclear energy is in decline, according to a 2007 World Nuclear Industry Status Report presented in the European Parliament. The report outlines that the share of nuclear energy in power production decreased in 21 out of 31 countries, with five fewer functioning nuclear reactors than five years ago. Currently 32 nuclear power plants are under construction or in the pipeline, 20 fewer than at the end of the 1990s.

Fusion. Fusion power could solve many of fission power problems. Nevertheless, despite research started in the 1950s, no commercial fusion reactor is expected before 2050. Many technical problems remain unsolved. Proposed fusion reactors commonly use deuterium and lithium as fuel.  Under assumption that a fusion energy output will be kept in the future, then the known lithium reserves would endure 3000 years, lithium from sea water would endure 60 million years. A more complicated fusion process using only deuterium from sea water would have fuel for 150 billion years.

Due to a joint effort of the European Union (EU), America, China, India, Japan, Russia and South Korea a prototype reactor is being constructed on a site in Cadarache (in France). It is supposed to be put into operation by 2018.

Initial projections in 2006 put its price at €10 billion ($13 billion): €5 billion to build and another €5 billion to run and decommission the thing. Since then construction costs alone have tripled.

As the host, the EU is committed to covering 45% of these, with the other partners contributing about 9% each. In May 2010 the European Commission asked member states to conduce an additional €1.4 billion to cope with the project over to 2013. Member states rejected the request.

Sustainability: The environmental movement emphasizes sustainability of energy use and development. “Sustainability” also refers to the ability of the environment to cope with waste products, especially air pollution.

The long-term radioactive waste storage problems of nuclear power have not been fully solved till now. Several countries use underground repositories. Needless to add nuclear waste takes up little space compared to wastes from the chemical industry which remains toxic indefinitely.

Future of nuclear industry. Let us return to how the damage to the Fukushima plant affects future usage of nuclear power in the future in Japan – and in the world.

Share of nuclear electricity production in total domestic production

Nowadays nuclear plants provide about a third of Japan’s electricity (see chart), Fukushima is not the first to be paralysed by an earthquake. But it is the first to be stricken by the technology dependence on a supply of water for cooling.

The 40-year-old reactors in Fukushima run by the Tokyo Electric Power Company faced a disaster beyond anything their designers were required to imagine.

What of the rest of the world? Nuclear industry supporters had hopes of a nuclear renaissance as countries try to reduce carbon emissions. A boom like that of the 1970s is talked, when 25 or so plants started construction each year in rich countries. Public opinion will surely take a dive. At the least, it will be difficult to find the political will or the money to modernise the West ageing reactors, though without modernisation they will not become safer. The heartless images from Fukushima, and the sense of lurching misfortune, will not be forgotten even if final figures unveil little damage to health. France, which has 58 nuclear reactors, seems to see the disaster in Japan as an opportunity rather than an obstacle for its nuclear industry. On March 14th President Nicolas Sarkozy said that French-built reactors have lost international tenders because they are expensive: “but they are more expensive because they are safer.”

However, the region where nuclear power should grow fastest, and seems to be deterred, is the rest of Asia. Two-thirds of the 62 plants under construction in the world are in Asia. Russia plans another ten. By far the most important arising nuclear power is China, which has 13 working reactors and 27 more on the way. China has announced a pause in nuclear commissioning, and a review. But its leaders know that they must go away from coal: the damage to health from a year of Chinese coal-burning plants is bigger then from nuclear industry. And if anyone can build cheap nuclear plants, it is probably the Chinese.

In case the West turns its back on nuclear power and China holds on, the results could be unfortunate. Nuclear plants need trustworthy and transparent regulation.

  References

  • The risks exposed: What the damage to the Fukushima plant portends for Japan—and the world; The Economist, March 19th 2011
  • Expensive Iteration: A huge international fusion-reactor project faces funding difficulties; The Economist, July 22nd 2010  

 

 

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Tactical Media and games

December 1, 2010
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Composed by Galina Vitkova

  

Introductory notes

Tactical media is a form of media activism that uses media and communication technologies for social movement and privileges temporary, hit-and-run interventions in the media sphere. Attempts to spread information not available by mainstream news are also called media activism. The term was first introduced in the mid-1990s in Europe and the United States by media theorists and practitioners. Since then, it has been used to describe the practices of a vast array of art and activist groups. Tactical media also shares something with the hacker subculture, and in particular with software and hardware hacks which modify, extend or unlock closed information systems and technologies.

Tactical Media in Video Games

Video games have opened a fully new approach for tactical media artists. This form of media allows a wide range of audiences to be informed of a specific issue or idea. Some examples of games that touch on Tactical Media are Darfur is Dying and September 12. One example of a game design studio that works in tactical media is TAKE ACTION games (TAG). The video game website www.newsgaming.com greatly embodies the idea of tactical media in video games. Newsgaming coins this name as a new genre that brings awareness of current news related issues based on true world events apposed to fantasy worlds that other video games are based upon. It contributes to emerging culture that is largely aimed at raising awareness about important matters in a new and brilliant approach.

Other examples of tactical media within video games include The McDonald’s Game. The author of this game takes information from the executive officers of McDonalds and giving it to the public by informing people about how McDonalds does its business and what means it uses to accomplish it.

Chris Crawford’s Balance of the Planet, made in 1990, is another example of tactical media, in which the game describes environmental issues.

Darfur is Dying description   

Camp of Darfuris internally displaced by the o...

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Origination

It is a browser game about the crisis in Darfur, western Sudan. The game won the Darfur Digital Activist Contest sponsored by the company mtvU ((Music Television for Universities campus)). Released in April 2006, more than 800,000 people had played it by September. It is classified as a serious game, specifically a newsgame.
The game design was led by Susana Ruiz (then a graduate student at the Interactive Media Program at the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California) as a part of TAKE ACTION games. In October 2005 she was attending the Games for Change conference in New York City, where mtvU announced that they, in partnership with other organizations, were launching the Darfur Digital Activist Contest for a game. The game should also be an advocacy tool about the situation in the Darfur conflict. Since mtvU offered funding and other resources, Ruiz decided to participate in this project.
Ruiz formed a design team and spent two months creating a game design document and prototype. The team spent much of the design phase talking to humanitarian aid workers with experience in Darfur and brainstorming how to make a game that was both interesting to play and was an advocacy tool. The Ruiz team’s beta version was put up for review by the public, along with the other finalists, and was chosen as the winner. The team then received funding to complete the game. The game was officially released at a Save Darfur Coalition rally on 30 March 2006.
Map of Darfur, Sudan (
Image via Wikipedia

 

Gameplay

The game begins with the player choosing a member of a Darfuri family that has been displaced by the conflict. The first of the two modes of the game begins with the player controlling the family member, who travelled from the camp to a well and back, while dodging patrols of the janjaweed militia. If captured, the player is informed what has happened to his/her selected character and asked to select another member of the family and try again. If the water is successfully carried back to the camp, the game switches into its second mode – a top down management view of the camp, where the character must use the water for crops and to build huts. When the water runs out the player must return to the water fetching level to progress. The goal is to keep the camp running for seven days.

 

Original caption states,

Image via Wikipedia

 Reception of the game

The game has been reported by mainstream media sources such as The Washington Post, Time Magazine, BBC News and National Public Radio. In an early September 2006 interview, Ruiz stated that it was difficult to determine success for a game with a social goal, but affirmed that more than 800,000 people had played it 1.7 million times since its release.  Moreover, tens of thousands of them had forwarded the game to friends or sent a letter to an elected representative. As of April 2007, the game has been played more than 2.4 million times by over 1.2 million people worldwide.

 The game has been the focus of debate on its nature and impact. Some academics, interviewed by the BBC on the game, stated that anything that might spark debate over Darfur and issues surrounding is a clear gain for the advocates. The others thought that the game oversimplified a complex situation and thus failed to address the actual issues of the conflict.  The game was also criticized for the sponsorship of mtvU, raising the possibility that the game might seem like a marketing tool for the corporation. The official site does not use the word “game”, but refers to Darfur is Dying as a “narrative based simulation.”

 

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Beware of danger when playing PC games online

October 30, 2010
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Example of firewall function: Blocking spyware...

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By P. B.

The Internet is a place where the user can find a lot of information, entertainment or work, but on the other side, the same user can “catch” viruses, spyware or malware. Many people don´t understand why somebody creates these harmful programs (see the notes below about these programs). However, the answer is easy – similarly in the common life we can meet a lot of people with wicked goals. And gaining money through special programs is an appropriate goal of many Internet thieves. There are various methods how to do it. On the Internet the user may visit some Web pages which contain  viruses or spyware or malware. It can very often happen to the pages with games because games are considered to be typically connected with gamblers and for this reason it can be a source of money.

But the harmful code  may not be only on the Web pages, games themselves can include it.  It means that the player, when downloading some game and installing it on the local computer, also installs the harmful code without any suspicion. It can be very dangerous – one small example. Imagine the user installed the game that involves a so-called keylogger. The key logger is a small program that records stealthily all keys which the user presses. Many antivirus programs consider this software as a virus (usually as a Trojan-horse – see A worm, a virus or a Trojan horse?). So, the key logger writes all pressed keys to the txt file and sends it to the thief´s e-mail. Suppose, after that the user visited his online betting on the http://www.tipsport.cz, where he had to write the text “www.tipsport.cz” following by username “honza” and password “sazeni123”. The key logger put this string of characters in the txt file “www.tipsport.czhonzasazeni123”. The thief received the file, found this text and was very fast able to connect to the honza-account and transferred all the money from Honza´s Internet account to his (thief´s) own account. It was easy, wasn´t it? Of course, the probability of this coincidence is not very high, but who knows.       

Replica of the Trojan Horse in Troy, Turkey

Image by Alaskan Dude via Flickr

 

Notes:

  • Malware means malicious software – authors of malware create programs for harming  other software. Malware includes PS viruses, trojan-horses, spyware and adware.
  • Spyware is a program that uses the Internet for sending data from the computer without awareness of a user of the computer. It differs from the backdoor by a content of sending data, i.e. it sends only statistic data (e.g. overview of visiting pages, installed programs) and can be used for advertising. The spyware is typically widespread in shareware programs and the authors of the shareware know about it and conciliate it because they want to earn money. 
  • Adware, or advertising-supported software, is any software that automatically downloads advertisements to a computer. The goal of the adware is to generate revenue for its author. Adware, by itself, is harmless; but some adware may come with integrated spyware such as keyloggers.

See more in What is Adware, Spyware and Anti-virus?

 

 


Choose Genres of PC Games for Your Relaxing

October 29, 2010
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Composed by Galina Vitkova

PC games or more generally video games can be categorized into genres by many factors such as methods of game playing, types of goals, art style and more. Nevertheless, a lack of consensus is typical for accepting formal definitions of game genres. Since genres are dependent on content by definition, they have changed and evolved as newer styles of video games have appeared.

Below commonly used video game genres with brief descriptions and sometimes with       examples are listed. However, Chris Crawford, a well-known computer gamedesigner and writer, notes that “the state of computer game design is changing quickly. We would therefore expect the taxonomy presented here to become obsolete or inadequate in a short time.” So, he recommends to “think of each individual game as belonging to several genres at once.”

Action games      

An action game puts stress on combat. So, players should use quick reflexes, accuracy, and timing to overcome obstacles. It is perhaps the most basic of game genres, and certainly one of the most widespread.

Fighting games emphasize one-on-one fight between two characters, one of which may be computer controlled. This genre first appeared in 1976 with the release of Sega‘s Heavyweight Boxing and later became a phenomenon, particularly in the arcades, with the release of Street Fighter II.

Maze games plot is entirely connected with a maze, which players must navigate. Quick thinking and fast reaction times are advanced by the use of a timer, monsters obstructing the player’s way, or multiple players racing to the finish. The most famous game of this genre is Pac-Man.

Pinball games are intended to replicate the look and feel of a real-life pinball table in virtual reality. Most pinball games hold the same gameplay style as in a real pinball table with some additional possibilities. In recent years they have become more popular on handheld systems, as opposed to consoles.

Platform games (platformers) involve travelling between platforms by jumping (sometimes by swinging or bouncing). Other traditional elements include running and climbing ladders and ledges. Platformers frequently borrow elements from other genres like fighting and shooting.

Shooter games

A shooter game focuses chiefly on combat involving projectile weapons, such as guns and missiles. They can be divided into first-person and third-person shooters, depending on perspective. First-person shooter video games (FPSs) emphasize shooting and combat from the perspective of the character controlled by the player and give the player the feeling of “being there”. Most FPSs are very fast-paced and require quick reflexes on high difficulty levels. Third-person shooter video games (TPSs or 3PSs) involve shooting and combat from a camera perspective, in which the player is seen at a distance. Furthermore, third-person shooters allow more complicated movements such as rolling or diving, as opposed to simple jumping and crouching typical in FPS games.

Official screenshot of Scorched 3D, an artille...

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Massively multiplayer online first person shooter games (MMOFPS) combine first-person shooter gameplay with a virtual world in which a large number of players may interact over the Internet. While standard FPS games limit the number of players able to compete in a multiplayer match (generally the maximum is 64), hundreds of players can battle each other on the same server in the game.

A shoot ’em up (or shmup for short), or arcade shooter, is a genre of shooter game in which the player controls a character or vehicle (most often a spacecraft) and shoots large numbers of enemies. Games in this genre call for fast reactions and memorization of enemy patterns. The first game of this type was Spacewar, developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1961, for the amusement of the developers; it was later released as an arcade game.

Tactical shooters are variations on the first- and third-person shooter genre, which concentrate on realism and highlight tactical play such as planning and teamwork (for example, co-ordination and specialised roles). In single player modes, the player commands a squad of AI controlled characters in addition to his own. In multi-player modes, players must work in teams in order to win the game.

Adventure games 

Adventure games belong to the earliest games created. The player should typically solve various puzzles by interacting with people or the environment, most often in a non-confrontational way. It is considered a “purist” genre and strives to exclude anything which comprises action elements.

A visual novel belongs to adventure games comprising mostly static graphics, usually with anime-style art. They resemble mixed-media novels or tableau vivant stage plays. Many visual novels can have various endings and allow more dynamic reactions to the player’s actions than a typical linear adventure plot. Visual novels are particularly popular in Japan, where they amount to 70% of PC games released.

The interactive movie genre came with the invention of laserdiscs. An interactive movie contains pre-filmed full-motion cartoons or live-action sequences, where the player controls some of the moves of the main character. In these games the only activity the player has is to choose or guess the move the designers intend him to make.

Action-adventure games 

Action-adventure games combine elements of their two component genres, habitually furnishing long-term obstacles that must be overcome almost constantly in the way. Action-adventure games tend to focus on exploration and usually comprise gathering, simple puzzle solving, and combat. “Action-adventure” has become a label attaching to games which do not fit precisely into another well known genre.  

Role-playing video games                                 

Role-playing video games derive their gameplay from traditional role-playing games (RPGs). Cultural differences in role-playing video games have led towards two sets of characteristics sometimes referred to as Western and Eastern RPGs. The first type often involves the player creating a character and a non-linear storyline along which the player makes his own decisions. In the second type, the player controls a party of predefined characters through a dramatically scripted linear storyline.

The action role-playing game is a type of role-playing game which includes elements from action games or action-adventure games. Although a definition of the genre varies, the typical action RPG heavily accents combat and often simplifies or removes non-combat attributes.

Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) emerged in the mid to late 1990s. Fantasy MMORPGs like The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar, remain the most popular till now.

The tactical role-playing game sub-genre principally refers to games which embody gameplay from strategy games as an alternative to traditional RPG systems. Like standard RPGs, the player controls a finite party and battles, but this genre incorporates strategic gameplay such as tactical movement, too.

   

An elven bardess, a magician and a girl at a l...

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

 


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

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 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 ...

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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

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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/

 

 


Accumulate Your Vocabulary

September 25, 2010
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                                          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.

 

 


Changing the theme of this blog

August 26, 2010
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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.

 

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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.

 


Kernel improvements in Windows 7

March 27, 2010
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  We continue in discussing Features new to Windows 7. This time some kernel improvements are argued. Join us!

Galina Vitkova

The kernel is a central part of most computer operating systems. That is a component of an operating system which makes a bridge between applications and the actual data processing executed by hardware. The kernel is intended to manage communication between hardware and software components of a computer system. It means the kernel communicates with external devices (Input/Output devices: a keyboard, a mouse, disk drives, printers, displays, etc.), manages internal components (like RAM, CPU, HDD) and operates entire processes. The kernel controls all processes which are starting and running and decides which process will have access to the hardware and for how long.   

    

Fig. 1  (from Wikipedia)

A kernel connects the application software to the hardware of a computer

 

The kernel is a constituent of a series of abstraction layers, each relying on the functions of layers beneath itself. As a basic component of the operating system it merely corresponds to the lowest level of abstraction that is implemented in software. The abstraction layers simplify designing all the software and make its implementation feasible.   

   

Fig. 2 (from Wikipedia)

A typical vision of a computer architecture as a series of abstraction layers: hardware, firmware, assembler, kernel, operating system and applications

Several improvements and additions have been made to Windows 7 (and Server 2008 R2) kernel components, which have increased system performance and enabled more optimal use of available hardware resources. Some of them are as follows:

  • Support for up to 256 logical processors.
  • Introduction of the concept of “timer coalescing (joining)”: Multiple applications or device drivers, which perform actions on a regular basis, can be set to occur at once, instead of each action being performed in accordance with their own schedule.
  • Implementation of Device Containers: Before Windows 7, every device attached to the system has been treated as a single functional end-point, which has a set of capabilities and a “status”. This has been appropriate for single-function devices (such as a keyboard or scanner). But it does not accurately represent multi-function devices such as a combination printer/fax machine/scanner, or web-cams with a built-in microphone. In Windows 7, the drivers and status information for multi-function device can be grouped together as a single “Device Container”. Then this device container is presented to the user in the new “Devices and Printers” Control Panel as a single unit.  
  • Accomplishment of User-Mode Scheduling: The 64-bit versions of Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 introduce a user-mode scheduling framework. On Microsoft Windows operating systems, scheduling of threads inside a process is handled by the kernel. This is sufficient for most applications. However, applications with large concurrent threading requirements, such as a database server, can profit from having a thread scheduler in-process. It occurs because the kernel no longer needs to be involved in context switches between threads. Due to this innovation threads can be created and destroyed much more quickly when no kernel context switches are required.

For more information about kernel innovations in Windows 7 and more English practice see Core operating system .

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

 

 


B i o f u e l s – do they interest you?

February 3, 2010
23 Comments

Composed by Galina Vitkova

 Biofuels belong to the most quickly developing branches of renewable energy sources, mainly due to oil price spikes and the need for increasing energy security. There are two main sorts of biofuels: bioethanol and biodiesel.

Bioethanol (also called biogasoline or simply ethanol) is an alcohol made by fermenting the sugar components of plant materials It is made mostly from sugar and starch crops. Technological process for producing ethanol requires as a rool a significant amount of energy (often unsustainable fossil fuel). Making ethanol from the sugar cane is less energy-consuming.

Ethanol can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form, but it is usually added to a gasoline to increase octane and improve vehicle emissions. Most existing car petrol engines can run on blends of up to 15% bioethanol with petroleum/gasoline.Many car manufacturers are now producing flexible-fuel vehicles (FFV’s), which can safely run on any combination of bioethanol and petrol.

Bioethanol is widely used in the USA and in Brazil – see the table below:

Fuel ethanol

(thousand tonnes equivalent oil)

2008

Change 08

over 07

Share of total

USA 17 460 41.3 % 50.2 %
Brasilia 13 549 20.0 % 38.2 %
Europe 1337 50.8 % 3.8 %
Total world 34 800 30.9 % 100 %

 

The expanded table with the similar content could be found in Renewables are becoming more and more popular based on REN21 Interactive Map (beta-version).

Green diesel (biodiesel) is the most common biofuel used in Europe. It is a liquid similar in composition to fossil/mineral diesel. Feedstocks for biodiesel include animal fats, vegetable oils, soy, flax, sunflower, palm oil, hemp and many others. Pure biodiesel (B100) is the lowest emission diesel fuel.

Biodiesel can be used in any diesel engine when mixed with mineral diesel. The majority of vehicle manufacturers recommend to add up to 15% biodiesel blended with mineral diesel. Many current diesel engines are made to be able to run on B100 without altering the engine itself.

Since biodiesel is an effective solvent and cleans residues deposited by mineral diesel, engine filters may need to be replaced more often because the biofuel dissolves old deposits in the fuel tank and pipes. In many European countries, a 5% biodiesel blend is widely used and is available at thousands of gas stations. Biodiesel is safe to handle and transport (e.g. it has a high flashpoint of about 300 F (148 C) whereas petroleum diesel fuel has a flashpoint of 125 F (52 C)).

The structure of the USA buofuels resources is depicted on the chart below:

Second-generation biofuels production processes use non-food crops and do not divert food away from the animal or human food chain. These include waste biomass, the stalks of wheat, corn, wood, and special-energy-or-biomass crops (e.g. Miscanthus). Many second generation biofuels are under development such as biohydrogen, biomethanol, biohydrogen diesel, mixed alcohols, wood diesel etc.. For example, producing ethanol from cellulose is a difficult technical problem to solve. So in cellulosic ethanol laboratories, various experimental processes are being developed to simulate natural enzymatic digestive processes, typical for animals, to make ethanol fuel.

Scientists also work on experimental organisms using recombinant DNA genetic engineering (see also Genetics for common people) to increase biofuel potential. A technology to use industrial waste gases from steel mills as a feedstock for producing ethanol has been developed in New Zealand.

Third generation biofuel is a biofuel from algae. Algae are low-input, high-yield source biofuels. Based on laboratory experiments, it claimed that Algae can produces up to 30 times more energy per acre than land crops such as soybeans, but these yields have yet to be produced commercially. With the higher prices of fossil fuels, there is much interest in farming algae.

References:

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

REN21 Interactive Map (beta-version) – http://www.ren21.net/map/

 P S : You can find a lot of absorbing information about biofuels made of sugar cane on the blog http://sugarcaneblog.com

 


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