Technology and immigration

I find myself in Boston in the US today, after a long couple of flights. Milan to Dublin wasn’t long but I only had an hour for the connection in Dublin, and in Milan they could not print my boarding cards so I had to go through a sort of check in process again – and it took ages.

First I queued up for 20 minutes to get my boarding card, no problem. Than I had to go through US clearance, new to me, but do what the man says when at the airport I always say. An incredibly long and arduous process of form filling in a hurry, through the body scanner, fingerprints, mug shot, another body scanner without shoes, constant race against time, very stressful (with 2 small children) and finally to the plane 2 minutes before leaving. Oh but it didn’t leave. We had to wait for the other late arrivers to get US clearance, so we waited 45 minutes on a full Airbus for the last few people.

A flexible border?

Something struck me at the time, the security personnel were all American and the stars and stripes were everywhere. Then the strangest thing. We arrived in Boston and we didn’t have to clear customs or show our passports! In fact we came in through the domestic arrivals terminal and the person waiting for us was in the wrong place.

Then it struck me, we had come on a domestic flight over the Atlantic. The US border has moved, it now takes in part of Dublin airport!

The technology was incredible, I had to identify my bags on a photo as they were being loaded onto the plane, and they have all the information they need about me.

But just because the possibility exists and technological advancements mean that the border can move and information can be sent in real time to the rightful authorities does a state (the most powerful state in the world) have the right to use it in this way? And what about the political implications? I suspect that the Tajikistan government would find themselves in difficulty during the negotiation process if they wanted to enforce a similar line.

Rule Britannia, the waves maybe but certainly not the skies!

Technology and immigration

Selecting the most suitable printers

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There is now an extensive range of different printers on the sites of suppliers like Ryman, and this range of choice can sometimes make the selection of the best model seem a difficult task.

As with so many other tech purchases, the way to zero in on the right printers is to first start by establishing the detail of your regular needs.

With printers, this understandably amounts to the type and frequency of the intended usage. Both of these factors have a bearing on spec of suitable printers, which in turn influences both initial outlay and ongoing running costs. Here we look at relative benefits of the most common types of printers.

Laser printers were formerly an expensive option, for business rather than home use, but costs for this technology, as with so many things in the IT world, have dropped over the years.

Those looking to produce a large volume documents will be happy with the excellent print quality of text produced by laser printers. Ongoing running costs are also low, with the relatively expensive toner cartridges lasting a long time, and commonly averaging a running cost of about 1p per A4 sheet. In contrast, inkjet printers can cost as much as 5p per sheet.

However, laser printers designed for the home use market do not usually come with the auto-duplexing function, which allows the automatic printing of both sides of the paper, and so aspiring novelists on a budget should perhaps be aware of this fact. Colour laser printers are a bit more expensive and limited in the quality of colour image that can be produced – they are not really recommended for those looking for a home photograph printer.

A PrinterInkjet printers are still the most popular for home use. Many inkjet printers can produce excellent quality photo prints and other high definition images, in full colour. Standard or entry level inkjets will perform just this function, and can be picked up inexpensively, although as mentioned can become costly if a large volume of printing is required.

For home office use, many choose to spend a little more on an integrated unit. All-in-one inkjet printers can scan, copy and print, and often fax. These kinds of inkjet printers will understandably cost more initially, but will have similar running costs as more basic models. One point to note with the integrated, all-in-one inkjet is the size of the unit, which is usually considerably larger than the standard type, and can eat up limited desk space.

While cheaper than laser printer toner cartridges, fresh ink cartridges or refills for inkjets will be required more frequently. This can get expensive, especially if a lot of high definition colour images are printed. Producing draft quality prints when definition is not an issue can go some way to reducing ongoing usage costs, and this is particularly viable when printing text.

Barcoding – a history and the future

Many youngsters these days are not aware of how recent barcoding technology actually is. In the 1970’s a mere forty odd years ago, it would have been a rarity to see a barcode – anywhere.

Before the barcode, retail was not nearly as efficient as it currently is. Often, till assistants would have to memorise the price of every product in the shop, or products would be individually priced. Furthermore, it was almost impossible to keep tabs on stock levels in real time.

Barcodes revolutionised industry.

Barcoding in retail

Now when you pick an item and take it to the till, a barcode is scanned. The till is linked to a central database where all the barcodes for that shop (or even the entire shop chain) are stored. Information on the price of the product, the stock of the product and usually a description and or image of the product, is all stored in relation to the barcode. Upon scanning, the price is retrieved from the database and one unit is deducted form the shops stock list.

Barcoding makes it easy to increase prices and to reorder stock, that way if something has high demand and is selling fast, more orders can (sometimes electronically) placed and the store can consider raising the price.

Barcoding in car production

Barcodes are also used in many other areas, one example being car production. In car production, each car will be given a barcode. That barcode will often contain information such as the type of car that is to be made, how the car is to be styled, what colour the car is to be pained etc.

Parts that have been made for that car will often also be associated with the same barcode, to ensure that every bit gets to the right car.

The classic barcode is the one with lots of vertical lines, each of different thickness. Below is an example of a classic barcode.

A Random Classic BarcodeDespite the classic barcodes uses, many people believe that the future of barcoding lies with QR codes.

QR Codes

QR codes are like barcodes in that they are all unique, however the image itself can actually store some information. QR codes are common in Japan, however they are slowly making their way westward, and and not uncommon in Europe now.

If you go to your fridge or a cupboard and pick up half a dozen items, the chances are at least one of them will have a QR code. I found one on some cheese the other day 🙂

QR Code‘ stands for ‘Quick Response Code‘ as they can quickly retrieve information, just by decoding the pixels in the QR code/image.

QR Codes are basically a code (durr) containing some form of information, be it text, a URL, etc. When you run the image through a QR decoder, it will work out what data is stored in the image.

Confused? Okay, let me give you an example. Below is a QR code image. If run the image through a smart phone QR decoder or an online QR decoder, you should find that it contains the information ‘www.TechnologyBloggers.org’. Why not try it out?

Technology Bloggers QR Code

When decoded this QR Code says 'www.TechnologyBloggers.org'


That information is stored in the actual image, and there is no need for you to connect to a database. That is why many people believe that they are the future of barcoding, as a barcode stores no actual data in the lines, just a reference to a counterpart on a database.

QR codes could store the name of a product and the price on that actual barcode image – although to deduct stock, they would need to be linked into the stock database.

In many countries, QR codes are being used in advertisements, and in some places, that are being used as the actual advert. This is to try and encourage people to decode the image and find out what it means.

So what do you think, are QR codes the future of barcoding? Could they both coexist, or will one emerge on top? What is your opinion of QR codes?

Over to you 🙂