Monday, 29 July 2013

How to Add an Excerpt of Your Blog Post When Posting a Link on Facebook - Instead of the Blog Description

When I write a blog post I like to put a link on my Facebook page to try to increase visitors. Facebook has a feature where it will grab a brief excerpt off the website you are linking. Unfortunately with blogger, on my blog, it will always grab the description of the blog and not an except of the blog post like I wish it to.

Facebook grabs the first paragraph, this is a piece of text which has the p tag. So all you have to do is to remove the <p> tag around the description and add up a <p> tag around the blog post. This is easier said than done.

Log on to Blogger click template then on edit HTML. Scroll down until you find code like this. It can be extremely difficult to find, it is probably easier to copy it into a text editor and do a search.

<b:includable id='description'>
  <div class='descriptionwrapper'>
    <p class='description'><span><data:description/></span></p>

I edited it removing the <p> tag as you can see below.

<b:includable id='description'>
  <div class='descriptionwrapper'>
    <span class='description'><data:description/></span>

Now all you need to do is find the body, select the jump to widget drop down box and select blog. Code that you need to find could be hidden as Florida likes to collapse the code to make things easier to find - which actually makes everything a lot harder to find. To expand the code you click of those arrows next to the line numbers.

The code should look like this:


Change the code to look like this:


Warning: Please back up your blog template before doing this. I take no responsibility for your blog gaining sentience and then destroying the human race.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Good Possibilities

This is my last installment of my three part series: Chris Predicts the Future click the link to read it from the start.

There is a looming demographic crisis throughout the Western world with the proportion of working people that pay taxes compared to those of retirement age declining. There just won’t be enough working age people to care for the elderly population. The economic burden will be too much for western economies. I do not believe the solution is large-scale euthanasia. The solution will be robots - lots of robots. Large-scale automation will allow western countries to compete in manufacturing while eliminating the need for large amounts of low paid workers.

These robots could also be used to care for the elderly in a way that they want. Automated cars will drive them around to shopping centres and appointments. Retirement homes may not be necessary for many elderly people. In some cultures the elderly are cared for in the home by relatives. This could be done here with advanced robots taking the place of relatives. This would give the elderly and disabled far greater quality of life and independence. Robots also do not need to be paid after a large initial investment - is this that will save us from economic ruin.

Wide adoption of renewable energy. Solar panels are getting cheaper and cheaper. Soon it will be silly not to have them on your roof. I do not believe it will be long until almost every roof has solar panels attached. The adoption of solar panels may make other forms of renewable energy more palatable with windmills appearing throughout suburbia.

Electric cars. Sooner than you may think electric cars will be commonplace. It will be a while before they can match the range of efficient petrol cars and charging will be a problem on long journeys. But for 99% of journeys this will not be a problem. Electricity is still a hell of a lot cheaper than petrol. With solar panels getting cheaper and more efficient, you could plug your car in and charge it using the solar panels on your work place’s roof. Driving a car could be free. Electric cars also have far fewer moving parts meaning they do not need to be serviced nearly as often. It is for these reasons that electric cars will become increasingly popular.

The industrialisation of space. There are many new space companies out there such as SpaceX. The CEO and founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk, has a goal of making the human race interplanetary. As anybody who has ever heard of an asteroid or a super volcano if the human race is to survive into the distant future we need an insurance policy. The combination of robotic and robotics advanced robotics and additive manufacturing will allow the industrialisation of space. Simply land a spacecraft on an asteroid. Advanced material processors and 3-D printers could to the material of the asteroid to make virtually anything. They can build machines that could harvest the valuable materials on the asteroid and also build a large spacecraft that could transport them to low Earth orbit. These materials could be further processed and used to make space habitats. Earth millionaires would be willing to pay a lot of money for real estate in space with the most incredible view you can possibly imagine.

If we work out how to mass manufacture carbon nanotubes out of asteroid material we could manufacture a space elevator. Carbon nanotubes have the highest tensile strength out of any known substance. It is the only things that could span from the earth’s surface to 36,000 km to geostationary orbit. Such a large object cannot be built from the ground up - instead it will be manufactured in space and gently lowered through Earth’s atmosphere and secured to the surface.Such an elevator would give access to space to anyone can afford a small aircraft journey today. If the human race manages to exploit the vast resources solar system - there is nothing that can stop us.

Back to the present.

Whatever happens, if I am able to successfully predict the future or not, the not too distant future is going to be very interesting. We are all lucky to be alive in this time.

This is my last installment of my three part series: Chris Predicts the Future

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Possibilities That Could Go Either Way

This is the second part of my series Chris Predicts the Future!

The collapse of the patent system. Patients are supposed to be used by inventors to protect their inventions and allow them to profit from them. It also allows others to see how the invention works in an effort foster further innovation. The patent system has gone a bit astray of late with some patents never being used to create anything. Instead they are used in litigation in an effort to win court cases against those infringing the so-called patents. There are entire legal firms dedicated to patient litigation - they are called patent trolls. These organisations never create anything, many of their patents are never used to create anything.

Some countries such as China have a poor record of enforcing patents and some Chinese companies have been accused of going through patents and simply stealing inventions - not giving the inventor a single cent.

These problems have led some companies to not use patients at all and instead they have started using secrecy to stop the theft of their ideas.

Large numbers of people have also come to believe that the patents system is immoral that it stifles innovation. They believe that an inventor automatically has a head start and all patents do is hold us back. In a world of additive manufacturing - I believe these people are right.

Many companies will be unable to make the adjustment if the patent system falls. The small-time inventor will thrive without fear that they can develop their inventions, sell them, and not worry about litigation.

New types of government. Many of the technologies that have been developed for the Internet could be used to create new forms of government such as democratic anarchy. In a democratic anarchy anybody is allowed to vote on legislation. This idea has been talked about seriously and explored in science fiction. No one really knows exactly how it would work. It would turn into a tyranny of the majority? Or will form a truly enlightened egalitarian society?

Further into the future the development of artificial intelligence could allow for a truly benevolent dictatorship. With an artificial intelligence making all the difficult decisions, without emotion or popularity coming into it - it would make the best decisions based on science that result in the greatest amount of happiness and well-being for the population. You never know.

Stay tuned for the finale Good Possibilities.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Chris Predicts the Future

The Present

We are living in an incredible time - the accelerating rate technological development is creating a rate of change that is unprecedented in our history.

Just in my short lifetime computers have gone from the playthings of nerds to entering almost every facet of our lives. Everybody carries around what would have been the equivalent of a supercomputer only 15 years previously. People can be contacted from anywhere in the world instantly. Social media has created an entirely new method of communication and even redefined friendship.

Money has gone from being a physical thing to almost entirely electronic. Transactions can be made easily without the need to meet face-to-face. Stock markets have been opened to the masses with anybody who has the will and a bit of spare cash to create their own stock portfolio - buying and selling shares is as easy as clicking a button.

There has also been an explosion in additive manufacturing with 3-D printers being available for anybody who is interested. The maker movement means that a wide array of electronic devices can now be created easily in the home.

We now have robot drones that patrol our skies governments can kill anybody at will with the press of a button. Some governments are also using the enormous power of supercomputers to troll through the data we create.

In this post I will try to predict the future. In these fast changing times this could be difficult. The rate of change will continue to accelerate - this is certain barring a civilisation ending calamity.

I will do my best to predict the future over a series of three blog posts. I will explore evil possibilities first, possibilities that could go either way second and finally good possibilities.

Evil possibilities.

Governments could monopolise the use of robots in combat. The American military industrial complex already has a massive head start in this kind of military technology. This could allow them to enter war with very little risk to human life. This technology can also be used on their own citizens, with drones monitoring the streets for any illicit activity.

With soldiers being replaced by machines governments will no longer need the consent of the people to create large powerful armies. This could be followed by governments no longer believing they need the consent of the people at all. There are a few developments in recent years that I believe signals a possibility of this occurring. The US government refusing to confirm or deny that American citizens on US soil could be the target of assassination by aerial drones. Those who don’t live in the US, of course, could be targeted with impunity. Also the massive collection of personal data, the equivalent of an illegal search in my opinion, is also a worry and at least a breach of the spirit of the American constitution.

The accumulation of robotic weapons by numerous governments makes war more likely. If a government knows they are not going to lose the lives of their own citizens it is politically far easier to go to war. There is also a flipside to this argument. Sometimes it is necessary to go to war to protect people’s lives. If it is easier to go to war evil dictators have a lot more to fear.

There is a slim possibility that we could lose control of the Internet. The Internet is the one thing that could unite the human race and create a far better world - but only if it remains free. In China the Internet is already strictly controlled. They even go so far as to create their own separate versions of massively multiplayer computer games such as Eve Online. Such computer games allow people from across the globe to meet in a completely different environment, to fight and to cooperate. I have met people from vastly different backgrounds and different countries such as Iran. I have met very few from mainland China. If you play a game like this you quickly realise, people are the same no matter what their background.

The Internet is a truly global village a cultural melting pot that may unite the world into one people. In such a world war may be a thing of the past. There are many governments and corporations that are threatened by the Internet, and some of them should be scared. The people that would seek to control the Internet could very well destroy a peaceful future for humanity.

The accumulation of personal data is also something we should be worried about. In a democracy that follows the rule of law it is probably a relatively benign thing. But as those who lived in Nazi Germany or in Egypt this year would tell you - some democracies don’t always remain democratic. A democracy that made the transition to a dictatorship could use all the data they have accumulated to put almost anybody behind bars. Many of us conduct criminal activity, casually smoking marijuana, or downloading Game of Thrones. Some of us have had our picture taken holding large guns. Or maybe even platonically kissing or hugging a member of the same sex. All of these could be used by a dictatorship to lock you up.

Stay tuned for my next installment: Possibilities That Could Go Either Way.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy - Not a Death Sentence

This is something I wrote for the Save Our Sons Facebook page. Save Our Sons (SOS) is a charitable organisation that raises funds for research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy - one of the most common severe genetic diseases and one that I have.

SOS irritated me greatly earlier in the year with their impressive robot arm campaign which tugged on the heartstrings, while simultaneously removing all hope from those with Muscular Dystrophy.

They are trying to move people to get them to go donate. Muscular Dystrophy – is not a death sentence. There are treatments such as mechanical ventilation that greatly extend the life of people with muscular dystrophy - we don't really know what the average life expectancy is. We shouldn't be speaking in those terms.

Here it is:

I have Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and so does my identical twin brother. We both turned 35 in April this year.

When I was 20, I got very sick and was told that I had reached the end stage of my disease - that I should be taken home, made comfortable and wait for the inevitable. I went to the emergency room one last time and was finally told that I needed a ventilator. I was sent up to the ward and when I got there I met another guy with DMD who was in his 40’s. As soon as I saw him I knew that I would live and all my hope returned.

I watched your video and I thank you for adding that bit about the ventilators. I was not very impressed with the 100% mortality rate described. Don’t forget life itself has a 100% mortality rate. I’m not dead yet and neither is my brother or many of my friends. It is medical technology, such as ventilators, and hope that keeps us alive. We need to keep that hope alive so as many people with DMD as possible make it to see the cure. We don’t just want this cure for the next generation, we all want to see it.

Ventilation is not the answer for everybody with muscular dystrophy, but there must be other technologies out there that will allow everybody with muscular dystrophy to live long enough to see better treatments and finally a cure.

I think your campaign has great intentions and I support it 100%. I just don’t want young people with DMD to think that very early death is an inevitable consequence of being diagnosed with DMD. Keep hope alive, keep fighting.

Thank you.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Kerbal Space Program - The Ultimate Game for Makers!

Many of you may have heard of Kerbal Space Program (KSP) – the best unfinished game since minecraft.

KSP is a space program simulator using an approximation of real physics and the very minimum of auto pilots. There are no goals in the game but those that you set yourself - it’s a sandbox. (This may change when the game is finished.)

Most people’s first goal is to achieve orbit. You have to construct a rocket using a number of parts stored in the vehicle assembly building. Your first effort will undoubtedly fail and maybe even your tenth. Your rocket may explode on the launch pad or go into a three axis spin. When things go wrong the resulting accident will be spectacular – I promise.

There are many so-called space stimulators that chuck out any notion of real physics as being too hard for gamers to understand - its rocket science! I always thought I was too stupid to understand orbital mechanics, but it turns out to be a lot easier than astronaut training would have you believe.

I felt a real surge of pride when I finally put a Kerbal in orbit and when I put one on the Moon, beating my brother there in the process, I felt even happier. This is a hard game and hundreds of Kerbals have died trying to prove they have the right stuff.

This game has a large following, with hundreds of mods that can be downloaded off the Kerbal Spaceport website. Mods include auto pilots, extra parts to fully assembled spacecraft for the lazy and lots more. There are also many people that have created videos to help people, and to brag, on Youtube. You will need to watch some of these videos to get anywhere in this game without great frustration as the help section of the game has not been finished yet.

I am currently building a low Kerbin orbit space station which currently has four modules and room for four kerbonauts. It is bound to get a lot larger.

My heavy lift vehicle with habitation module attached.

My space station in low Kerbin orbit.

Kerbal Space Program is a great game, I give it five stars.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Is Technology the Answer?

As somebody who relies on technology to live I’m probably a bit biased, so I believe the answer is yes. For those who don’t know - my brother and I have Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, this is a muscle wasting disease with larger muscles being affected more than small. We stopped walking at 10 and rely on electric wheelchairs to get around. We have continued to get weaker, but progress of the disease has greatly slowed as we get older. At around the age of 20 we started using mechanical ventilation as our breathing had become more difficult. Initially we used them overnight and in the last two years we have used them 24/7.

Technology allows me to get around and has greatly extended my life and that of my friend who have MD. Only a few years before I received my ventilator they were not prescribed as readily with deadly consequences. I still continue to lose friends, but ventilation gives me the hope that the majority of us will live to see better treatments.

Some people blame technology for the ills of the world, but it is really us humans that are to blame. We had the audacity to wish that all our children would live to reach adulthood. That we could stay healthy longer and actually live to retirement. Freedom from horrible diseases like smallpox and polio. That we could travel to see relatives on the other side of the world. That we could communicate with anybody wherever we were in the world.

Technology has been the answer; the world is a far better place than it was 100 years ago. The problem is the unintended consequences of answering our sometimes desperate needs. Technology was the answer in the past and continues to be so.

Our need for energy is what is destroying this world, but we will continue to be unwilling to give up the amazing things that technology has given us. There are many alternative forms of energy such as solar power that are becoming increasingly cheaper. One day soon it will be normal to have solar panels on your roof. Wind power is also rolling out across the country.

The latest technology has also allowed houses to be many times more efficient. It is possible for a house to be quite liveable only being heated by the body heat of the people living in that house. Yes it is more expensive to build a house like that, but the immense energy savings would pay for it in no time. With energy prices going up more people will be choosing to make their houses more efficient.

Our society could be made more efficient. For example all our food waste could be fed into bioreactors generating methane which can then be burnt in a power station next door. Technology will also solve future problems such as the looming demographic crisis with there being too many retired elderly people for our economies to support. The answer to this is of course an army of robotic carers. This is not a pie in the sky idea, but something that is necessary for human life to continue as we know it. This crisis is already hitting in Japan. China cannot save us this time with their own demographic crisis on the horizon. If we do not wish to introduce compulsory euthanasia and we do not find a cure for old age - robots will be the answer.

So to sum it all up - technology is the answer.