“Green” Lighting

The lightbulb that has supplied our homes and offices with light since the 1880s is officially on its way out. Incandescent light bulbs while cheap, are very inefficient. In fact, most of the energy they produce is wasted as heat. As a result the financially and ecologically concerned are ditching incandescent bulbs for LEDs. The LED, or light-emitting diode, has been around for years. They light up cellphone screens, Christmas lights, and traffic signals. However, LEDs have never really taken off as far as household lighting goes. In the last few years, though, LED replacement bulbs that screw into lamps like incandescent bulbs have become more common. While LEDs are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, they offer better light quality and greater flexibility. In some ways, LED light bulbs can be considered a perfect technology.

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An LED light bulb called the Geo-bulb

An LED is known as a “solid-state lighting” technology or SSL. Instead of emitting light from a vacuum like an incandescent bulb, an SSL emits light from a solid piece of matter. In an LED, light is produced when electrons move around in the semiconductor structure, which is made of positively and negatively charged components. The positive component is composed of holes that allow electrons to flow through them, and the negative layer is made of free electrons floating around in it. When an electron strikes the semiconductor, it activates a flow of electrons from the negative to the positive layer. The excited electrons emit light as they travel through the positively charged holes. This solid-state lighting technology has allowed LED light bulbs to become the superior choice in lighting. While you won’t find LED light bulbs in too many household fixtures today, there are a number of reasons to make the switch from incandescent.

First, there is the reduced energy use. The SSL method of producing light loses far less energy to heat than other lighting technologies do. As a result, it is about 85% more efficient than the vacuum/filament method used in incandescent bulbs. The vacuum/filament method causes incandescent bulbs to be extremely inefficient because most of the energy is lost as heat as electricity is pumped into filaments to make them glow. While a light fixture with a 60-watt incandescent light bulb consumes about 525 kWh of electricity in a year, an LED Geo-bulb in the same fixture only uses 65 kWh in annual energy use. That makes the LED an energy-efficient choice. Also, the carbon dioxide reduction for LED lights is in the hundreds of pounds for a single lamp. The reduction in carbon dioxide production and energy usage make it easy to see why LEDs have emerged as popular green lighting.

But energy efficiency is just part of the story. The other part is time efficiency. Solid-state lights such as LEDs are more stable light sources than incandescent bulbs. It is possible to go 20 years without having to change an LED light bulb. In fact, a Geo-bulb lasts 30,000 hours while a typical incandescent lasts about 750. LEDs are so long lived because they do not operate at high temperatures like incandescent bulbs. These high temperatures  degrade the filaments used to produce light in incandescents making the bulbs useless in a relatively short period of time. Even though LED lights are more expensive than the 1 or 2 dollar incandescent bulbs, the switch to LEDs is worthwhile in the end. Tariq Syed, a machinist at an electrical utility, who was interviewed by the New York Times, said, “The LED you buy, even though you pay even $25 or $30, it’ll last like nine or 10 years.” As a result, LEDs will end up saving money in the long run because the bulbs only need replaced once every decade or two.

Aside from the cost, another primary concern with LEDs is the color of the light emitted. All of the light produced by an LED is the same color and LEDs can be designed to produce light within the visible range of the spectrum. This precise conversion of light to one color is why LEDs are referred to as “digital light.” This digital precision creates a problem. Our eyes prefer full-spectrum light, such as the light produced from an incandescent bulb, a fireplace, or the sun. Today, LED bulbs use a mix of phosphors, which absorb light and re-emit it at different colors, to convert the single color of the LED to multiple colors that mimic the spectrum. As a result, more people find the light of the LED pleasing while a number of them prefer the color of light emitted by incandescent bulbs.

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A kitchen lit by LED light bulbs

LED light bulbs can be considered a perfect technology. Compared to the incandescent light, the design and SSL technology behind the LED bulb makes it a superior choice in lighting. The next time its necessary to change a light bulb consider buying an LED bulb, especially if you are looking for a way to save a few bucks and the environment at the same time.

The iPhone Killer

When one talks about the latest in cellphone technology it is not surprising to hear the name Apple mentioned. As a leader in the production of iconic smartphones, Apple’s iPhone has become one of the most desired devices on the market, and for good reasons. Recently however, another smartphone has given Apple a little playful competetion. In fact, Samsung’s Galaxy S3 has been given the name “the iPhone killer.” I believe that Samsung has succeeded in creating an ideal smartphone that competes with the design of Apple’s iPhone 5.

Let’s start with what defines this phone -the screen. The Galaxy S3 (GSIII) houses a 4.8 inch 1280 x 720 16M Super AMOLED Display, while the iPhone 5 has a 4 inch screen with retina display. The GSIII maximizes the surface area on the front of phone, making it feel large and luxurious. In fact, most of the front is just the screen itself; you won’t find a lot of extra trim commonly found on the iPhone. Apple had once said it was the optimum size for a smartphone, but Samsung and others are proving them wrong with their larger than life screens. The larger screen size makes the GSIII ideal for watching content and browsing the internet when both hands are free. The Galaxy S3 also offers superior media support. It can play a wider range of audio and video formats while the iPhone 5 only supports a very limited range. However, the iPhone 5’s retina display provides a more vivid viewing experience than the GSIII. Unfortunately, the larger screen size also means a shorter battery life and the inability to use the phone with one hand.

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The iPhone 5 has a glass and aluminum design that is admittedly quite attractive and light. The iPhone 5 weighs 112 grams. However, the GSIII’s plastic body still manages a premium look. The plastic body also helps keep the weight of the phone down, measuring in at 133 grams. Although the Galaxy S3 feels plasticky in-hand, it is still a tough phone thanks to the Corning Gorilla Glass II used to protect the phone from the wares of day-to-day life. The iPhone 5 uses a similar strengthened glass to protect the phone, and in a drop test between the two the iPhone 5 fairs better.

Now we turn to the back and see the Galaxy S3’s 8 MP camera. The iPhone 5 also has a back facing 8 MP camera. In fact, both cameras are capable of 1080p HD video recording, auto-focus and LED flash. However, the GSIII’s front-facing camera outshines the iPhone 5’s. Samsung’s front-facing camera has a higher quality than Apple’s, shooting at 1.9 MP opposed to 1.2 MP. One new feature of the iPhone 5 is the ability to record video and take pictures at the same time, something the Galaxy S3 can do with both its rear and front-facing cameras. However, Android offers a more complete camera app. Although it appears complicated at first, the app actually gives the user much more flexibility on how they want to take photos. White balance, exposure, ISO and metering can all be adjusted and various filters can be applied. The GSIII also lets you take 20 continuous shots in seconds with Burst Shot, or choose the best out of 8 continuous shots with Best Shot.

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The Galaxy S3 operates on a Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich Platform, while the iPhone 5 runs on Apple’s iOS 6. The Galaxy S3, however, is expected to get an update to Android 4.1, Jelly Bean Platform in the near future. Both of these operating systems have very different looks and levels of customization. Most users praise the iOS operating system because of its simplicity. Apple fans say it just works, without any extra effort. The Android system on the other hand has an OS that is customizable on just about every level. Android also provides more free apps, and doesn’t lock you down to one app store. Where the iPhone 5 restricts, the GSIII provides openness and customizable options. In addition, the Map app on the iOS 6 is poor. Apple recently ditched Google and in order to provide their own Map app and the result has left customers extremely annoyed. Away from the app, iOS 6 is very similar to its recent incarnations. Not much has changed from the previous versions, which to me makes the system feel a little dated. For Jelly Bean, Google has introduced a number of new features under the Project Butter to help make user interface smoother, faster and more responsive.

Lastly, the Galaxy S3 is packed with some innovative features that will probably be overlooked by the average customer. The S Beam feature of the GSIII allows the user to transfer documents, contacts, pictures, videos and music simply by placing the backs of two S Beam enabled devices together. Surprisingly though Apple opted not to install an NFC (Near Field Communication) chip in the iPhone 5, which is the technology behind the GSIII’s S Beam. The Direct Talk feature on the Galaxy S3 allows you to go from a text message directly to a phone call by simply lifting the phone to your ear. The GSIII recognizes this motion and dials the contact’s number automatically. The S Voice feature on the Galaxy S3 opens the door to more sophisticated voice commands. With S Voice you can tell the GSIII to turn off the alarm for a few more minutes, reject or answer a call, turn the music up or down, and even tell the camera when to shoot, something the iPhone’s SIRI is incapable of.

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It is hard to pick a clear winner in the battle of Apple’s iPhone 5 vs. Samsung’s Galaxy S3. Both phones are very different, and both devices are not without their disadvantages. The iPhone 5 offers a neat and tidy experience that also restricts the user on many levels. The Galaxy S3 provides the customer with more openness and customizable options but is hard to use with one hand and has a shorter battery life due to the larger display. Despite these drawbacks, the GSIII suits very well against the iPhone 5, and has given Apple something to worry about. I believe the GSIII has proven to be an ideal smartphone and a  good alternative to the iPhone 5, especially if money is a deciding factor.