Transformers

As the story goes, the great Nikola Tesla, who worked for Thomas Edison for a time, ushered in modern electricity by inventing a system of alternating current that was completely different from the vision of Thomas Edison, and completely new to the world.

But the truth is that the electric generator, the foundation of the revolution of abundant electrical power, had already evolved in two forms, the direct current and the alternating current form.

The electric generator was pioneered by Michael Faraday around 1832. It operates by overpowering mysterious magnetic forces. The power input into the system to overpower the magnets gets translated into a flow of electrons, that can be captured by a battery, or sent down wires to run a motor or heat something.

Faraday used a rotating disk and a fixed horseshoe magnet, he captured the electrons with a springy piece of metal along the edge of the disk, which rotated on an axle where the electrons returned.

The Faraday disk generator produced an alternating current as the poles of the magnet alternated from north to south relative to the rotating disk.

Years later, the generator was improved to provide direct current by using a commutator, a gimmick that switched the polarity of the outputs at 180 degree points of rotation.

But over time we learned that the losses from transmitting alternating current over wires were far lower, and the direct current generator is now very rare. Even a cars alternator produces alternating current, but they are packaged with a rectifier and a regulator.

The Transformer

You might be aware that there is probably a transformer on an electrical pole not far from your house. But do not forget the every iPhone charger and laptop battery charger is also a transformer. The modern sophisticated electrical grid would not be possible without transformers.

Faraday also deserves a lot of credit for the transformer, as he used mathematics to describe how magnetic forces and alternating currents effected the flow of electrons.

Faraday was not alone discovering the effects of magnetic forces on themselves and other things, but he was probably the best theoretical mathematician in his field and at the time. In 1831, another scientist, Joseph Henry, was documenting similar findings. Faraday was in England and Henry was in America.

So what did Nikola Tesla invent?

Nothing really, most of his hands on experiments were utter failures. But he was probably aware of the works of Galileo Ferraris and Mikhail Dolivo-Dobrovolsky. He might have noticed that John Hopkinson received a British patent for three phase electrical transmission and distribution in 1882.

Tesla was crazy, but brilliant, and he could read the math and understand the phases and sines and cosines. More so, Tesla envisioned the problems and solutions. Westinghouse was the hands on guy that turned Niagara Falls into a revolution, but certainly Nikola Tesla helped Westinghouse to see why three phase alternating current was the winning way to transform the nation.

Tesla was correct in one thing, he recognized how cool alternating current and three phase electricity was, all while Edison was still trying to charge a battery.

Raw Sockets

Socket programming is a specialized area of network programming. While it offers the richest capability by its nature, it is little used due to the amount of intellectual overhead required to manage all the settings of the IP packet.

Visual Basic is one tool that makes socket programming easier with DLL library support, but yields an application that is limited to Windows and may require specific versions of windows.

C programming is another option, yielding a result that also ties to windows DLL libraries, but with an abstraction layer can in theory be written platform agnostic. Firstly the program which opens and closes a TCP socket.

The use of sockets allows complete control of ip address, port, packet size, et. al.

#include
#include

WSAStartup initializes the sockets processes.

UDP

A program can listen on UDP port 80, and use any data received on that port. UDP does not use a connection like TCP, once established, it never closes.

#include
#include

for printf main() {
WSADATA ws;
WSAStartup(0x0101,&ws);
SOCKET udp_socket;
struct sockaddr_in peer;
int peerlen;
char recvbuffer[20];
int retval;
peer.sin_family = AF_INET;
peer.sin_port = htons(80);
peer.sin_addr.s_addr = htonl(INADDR_ANY);
udp_socket = socket(AF_INET, SOCK_DGRAM, 0);

raw sockets allow you access to any parameter in an IP or TCP header.

How to pick a computer, 2015

One debate that rages on in the computer arena is over what operating system people should adopt. The place to start is by knowing what you intend to do with the computer, play games, surf the internet, email, pictures, video and audio or maybe even develop software.

First and foremost, many young computer users seek a powerful computer to play games which now feature internet interaction with other users. World of Warcraft has been the long standing leader, but Call of Duty and even FIFA soccor have come to larger popularity.

Another common use for computers is the office productivity market, led by Microsoft with it’s suite of word processing, spreadsheet and e-mail program known togerther as Microsoft Office.

Thirdly, computers are needed to support the backbone of computing. Billions of credit card transactions are processed every day on computers that run operating systems other than Mac or Windows. Packets of information are routed all over the globe, often with switches that are intelligent, but whose operating system resembles nothing comparable to what we are used to.

Today’s connected operating systems are a little different that years past. Today’s systems mostly include features uncommon historically.

A pointing visual interface, where the user selects a task or points at a function, rather than typing a command.
Updatable, using internet connections, to gain security updates and bug fixes.
A robust internet http browser, probably with encryption capabilites, to interface with public servers for everything from public videos to very private banking information securely.
Apps. Whether it is an intense computer game or Microsoft’s Word word processing, the ability to add freeware and licensed software to do something more.
Even smart phones are now a part of the operating system universe, virtually all new phones run Android or Apple’s IOS, with a smaller number running Windows or Blackberry operating systems.

In this world, people look for a sympatico amongst their computers. Mac users prefer iPhones, but many Windows users still want iPhones. Android phones are still have their audience, and some Windows users also want a Windows phone. The least troublesome approach may be to use Apple’s approach, with a Mac, and iPad and an iPhone. But a cheap laptop, Android tablet and a Blackberry still will talk to each other. You just have to work harder.

So another feature of operating systems emerges. If I take a picture on my phone, or a video, can I share it at home on the tablet? If I text my wife, can she jump on her iPad and see the video? We shouldn’t just post it to Youtube, especially if it’s our grandson in the bathtub showing his crack!

The Apple Cloud, while more expensive, is for sure the most consumer friendly and secure platform for this. You take pictures or a little movie with the iPhone, and as long as you have enabled iCloud, your wife one thousand miles away has immediate access. No email, no tricky links, she just goes to the iPad.

This is also great 6 months later, when you dropped the phone and broke it, the iPad was stolen at the gym, and your family has new and different devices. You simply reconnect with your iCloud account, and you have access to those pictures and videos.