Coming in the Future

Virtual Reality (VR) Coming to Your Life Sonner than You Think!

Virtual Reality, or “VR” for short, is coming on fast. I’ve been engaged in watching it for many years, and in the format of head mounted displays “HMDs,” I first experienced one about 1996, where the world around me was filled with flying dragons and you had to spot and shoot them before they got to you. Cartoonish by today’s standards, but I got the experience of wearing it and considering the usefulness and applications to come.

In March, Facebook bought a successful Kickstarter project, Oculus Rift for $2B. The foundation of VR has been the simulation and gaming industry, with applications in the engineering the medical field.

So why is Facebook interested in a gaming device? From Dice:

“In the longer term, Facebook could attempt to build a virtual reality, one in which users interact with each others’ avatars amidst a digital landscape, rather than via a newsfeed or postings. In theory, that sort of simulacrum presents some prime opportunities for advertising: imagine all the digital billboards and wall-ads that Facebook could sprinkle around a virtual city.”

Think Star Trek Holodeck, minus the tactile input of feel. Now consider the applications that may flow from that, when a very capable HMD is in the sub $300 range.

Here’s the conditions to look forward to: If you think it’s rude now for a group of people in one place to all be nose first in their smartphones, get ready to walk into Starbucks and see 5-6 people at the bigger common table, laptops open and on, and they all are interacting in a virtual world, while sitting next to each other.

There will be exciting uses, like going up the Eiffel Tower with friends, when you all aren’t in the same place, and certainly can’t afford the time or have the money to go there…or NASCAR races, or hiking trails in the Grand Canyon.

As with any technology, there will be appropriate and effective uses, and then someone will turn it into an obsession and amplify the angst we have over being present and not being there when we are physically with others right next to us.

You heard it here. It’s going to be part of our worlds. It’s been driven by the gaming community and then other industries will piggy back on what solutions were put in place. As a side note: The graphics card market, that is an essential piece of the puzzle, also matured as a demand from the gaming community, to get closer to virtual environments being very lifelike in look and experience. Expect the business world the pick up the banner and apply it to meetings, or distance learning, or project construction reports, with this being a path to further develop augmented reality, too.

Time to rethink the dpi for your main web and mobile site images

Just bumped across a review on the new iPads and two sentences caught my eye. The reviewer mentioned surfing to Zillow, the site that lists houses for sale. He commented on how the pictures looked all pixelated.

That’s important, and it’s also a sesimic change in the digital world of our websites and images on the mobile devices viewed by our clients. In “the good old days,” the way to keep your web pages loading fast, and not bust through your storage and bandwidth limits of your hosting provider, the best bet was to “downsize” the images to be 100dpi (dots per inch) down to no less than 72dpi.

In a world where the masses of display devices could not get above 75dpi, it was a great way to help yourself in the ways mentioned above. If you had been loading those 5 mega pixel pictures from your digital camera, and then wondered why your web pages took so very, very long to display, and you figured it out, you know what I’m talking about.

So….what’s the point? The new Retina displays for the iPad3 and iPhone 5 devices leapt forward to now display 286dpi. Your 100dpi pictures, all slim and trim electronically images UP TO NOW now look all pixelated.

Time to consider just how smooth and life like you need your site images need to be for the growing market of Apple product users.

If you don’t consider this an issue, and think you can just leave those users behind, you need to understand much of what is before you in the non-Apple/Mac world came to be as a result of everyone trying to copycat the innovations coming out of Apple. USB came from Apple Desktop Bus (ADB), which also gave us back all sorts of things attached outside the computer (like Macs were n the early days), after the PC people were trying to put everything inside the box. Windows…bless Bill Gates and his merry band of workers, was a twinkle in Bill’s eye because Steve and Steve (and realistically, Mike) put out a ground breaking new interface to the computer, and once seen, Microsoft then began to work on it.

Displays, the actual hardware, now will begin to see an evolution very soon, as the consumer market will begin to want it, but without the price tag, and the electronic manufacturers will position their products to meet the demand, and therefore, your site better be up to speed in the near future.

If those old images aren’t on file, in their original, high quality format, consider replacing them, or reworking the sites to remove them from their digital surrounding.

Next: No more low resolution setting on your cameras. Get the high quality version (at the minimum to allow you to extract a nice 300dpi version), and store them for the future.

Update 11/10/12: Google and Samsung are now using 300dpi (or “ppi” pixels per inch) displays on their new tablets. One more “call to action” to get into all your website graphics and consider “upgrading” the dpi of not only your photos, but any artwork/logo you scaled down for fast loading web pages! End of update, now returning to your original text.

The quick thinkers, who rely on high quality impression for their business would be well advised to make a review of their sites a top priority in the near term.

Words to the wise…prepare for the shifts in technology, or at least, in this case, start paddling now to catch the wave.

Windows 8, Microsoft Surface and a Big Touch Screen Monitor – I’m Living Bill Gate’s Dream!


Click the picture for a bigger version!

Well, maybe it’s Steve Ballmer’s dream now, but that’s in the details.

Microsoft announced the Surface two days ago. Yesterday, on my current build, I put the Windows 8 Consumer Preview operating system on an i5-2300 with 16GBs of RAM, attached to a Dell SX2201T touch screen (multi-point) monitor, which also has a microphone and a webcam built in to interface to the main tower with a USB cord.
So, what have I done? I basically built myself a non-portable, and maybe not as water/shock proof desktop Microsoft Surface.

I have my “tiles” (get used to talking about them instead of “apps,” and an ability to tap and run the different programs. I’ll admit, having had the Windows 8 on a netbook for about 6 months, my fingers can’t get to those discrete sensors in the extreme lower left and right of the screen to activate the Start Screen and the access to the Settings.

But….I don’t mind that much, as I can get the experience of having a desktop like many will be using in the fixed desk settings of business and large corporations, without the expense of a Microsoft Surface, which isn’t on the store shelves until about the time Windows 8 comes out, in the second half of the year….Hey! We’re almost there!

I will be installing the full set of applications I have been running on a Windows 7 Ultimate Q9650 *GB computer for the last two years, and see just how things compare.

More later on adventures in the almost future!

Social Media: The Internet is Forever……And Employers are using it more and more

The checking for the boundaries of youth have seen “better days.”

In an age where popularity and one-upsmanship carries significant amounts of social capital by “performing in/on social media, the trend is for not the only the Government to monitor you, with your own permission, if they choose, but, the ones you can’t claim 1st Amendment rights cases against so easily: Employers.

In this article from England from the regarding trends in the market, the move afoot is for employers, not just to check you out for hiring (already problematic enough when you have posted those partying hardy pictures and videos), but to keep tabs on what you’re saying…and it could not even be about them:

Many employers already monitor their workers’ Facebook, Twitter and other social media pages – but the practice is set to increase, a new report has revealed.

A new report by data analysts Gartner has claimed that by the year 2015, 60 per cent of employers will monitor social media pages of their employees.

The ‘Big Brother’ monitoring will be driven by security worries about employees leaking information or talking negatively about their workplace.
[…]

Well some us “seasoned” people have escaped the tomfoolery of youth without such consequences, be sure to pass some wisdom along to those you mentor or are the parents of, and hopefully, they will take such information under advisement and not press the “Update Status” button as fast, or as frequently as they may have planned to…

FireFox 4.0 beta ia out!

I enjoy living in the beta world of software. I have rarely come across really bad betas, and I get to know what’s coming “our” way before other begin using it.

Today I installed FireFox 4.0 (beta), meaning the released for testing by people outside of the development place in order to get feedback.

I’m glad I can still get into my FireFox 3.6.X install, too.

Not because FF 4 is bad, but I have bvecome accustomed to using many add on functions, called “plug ins” in FireFox and with the move up to 4.0(b), most all of the plugins I had installed didn’t work. Several of those I very much rely on, so 4.0(b) is a non-starter for me. It does have a nicer look, and I’m sure some improvements “under the hood,” but I need a few of the plugins to be updated for operating in 4.0 before I completely migrate to the newer version.

If you want to join me out “on the edge,” you can download FireFox 4.0(b), you can get it at this link. Enjoy!

Random Bits From the Digital Trenches

Technology is creeping ahead…quickly. iPads are making it off the shelves in massive numbers, and…yes, there is a security issue. Interesting, isn’t it: The more connected we become, the more we are “exposing” our information. And, as the old saying goes, you can make mistakes with computers so much faster and many more times!

The “bad guys” are hard at work. About 6 months ago, people called me with “scareware” viruses and I could eradicate them in under an hour. Since then, a new wave has appeared, and they not only have a propensity to fake where they are installed, they also now find the more common anti-spyware database files on your systems and remove the identification data, so you can scan your system and they are not recognized. Net result: The “infection” hangs on longer and takes more effort to find and eradicate them. Are you practicing “safe computing?” If you don’t have anti-virus and anti-spyware and a firewall besides the one that comes with Windows, shame on you! By having those installed, you have a much better chance of not having to call me in to get you back to work, and writing me a check.

Smartphones. Geez….the iPhone 4 is very, very cool. That, along with the many others hitting the market, both in the Android and Windows based ones, cell phone band width will become an issue. We consumers will be amazed that “unlimited” plans really aren’t. In defense of the carriers, it takes money and technical expertise and time to keep the “backbones” upgraded for us to use. Think of it as road construction, and it’s going to be a massive rush hour. Just as we see our digitally connected worlds expanding exponentially, there will be the just one more customer that sends your connection speed down the tubes. It’s a problem of aggregation, not that one users.

Next issue: Apple really upped the ante with the “retina” display technology. Think you have a nice screen now? Think again. We have been living on display surfaces, both in the cathode ray tube and now the LCD/LED era, at resolutions of no greater than 75 dots per inch (dpi), at best…usually 72 dpi.

drool over this: 326 dpi! Math: 326/75 = 4.3X improvement in picture clarity. It used to be, I “thinned” out pictures for web use to 100 dpi, because above that, you couldn’t tell the difference, and it also less data to transfer, so the pictures on a web page loaded much faster. Now 400 dpi wil have to be the default standard for high quality on the net. That also means more data flying about, clogging the pipes. In actuality, it will be a while before we really have to worry about this, as only the really big corporations, and “bleeding edge” early adopters will have such displays, but maybe 5-8 years down the road, this resolution will become an accepted common standard. My prediction, not connected to anything I’ve read…yet.

WordPress is no longer just blogging software. It’s now a true “Content Management System” (CMS). I’ll be revamping the site one day, to take advantage of this functionality, but It will be a planned, staged retooling, as I see potential for dropping all the blog posts into thin air, if the right steps aren’t taken. I have a “sandbox” out there in the net, just so I can see what steps to take, in what order. Part of my self-educating process, so I can do it for clients.

Windows 7 is still doing well. I like it more and more. I still haven’t migrated my trusty workhorse, the laptop, but that is another staged, well planned event, so as not to come up saying “Hey! Where did ________________ file go?” Sort of like the locker room scene in “Top Gun,” where the “best of the best” discussed their first day of practice air combat maneuvers (ACM). That part of the locker room scene isn’t on YouTube…

There are a few notes from my world, to give you some insight into yours!

SmartPhones: Good or evil?

I’ll say this:  I’m waiting for the Dell “Slate” to hit the streets as my PDA, cell phone and non-existent air card service.

I’ve suspected, at the barely conscious level that when we all grab our ‘driods and tap into “all you can eat” web surfing, the networks will begin to wheeze.

What next?  Well, as consumers, we shall begin to talk bad about the services that served us well, until we could chop on large heaps of bytes with essentially miniaturized computers in our hands.

At the ARS Technica site, they say this:  How SmartPhones are bogging down some carriers:

Even though AT&T has made improvements to its network over the last couple of years—including moving towers to an 850MHz spectrum that can more easily penetrate building walls, as well as upgrading to faster 7.2Mbps HSPA+ protocols—those improvements have done little to stem the tide of complaints from consumers in larger urban areas. Those users experience frequent dropped calls and an inability to make data connections, and in general they feel that service is spotty.

Just think, the iPad is going to be coming in large numbers…and the Slate, to join the many new phones which are the all in one digital tether to the net we seek like crack.

The pure technical facts are, the “bandwidth” (think of how many lanes in the road) can be used faster than more of the capability can be added. It’s not like we all haven’t experienced this with road construction sometimes in our lives.

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Tuesday Tech Tips

New acronym to absorb: “WUW” – Wear Ur World.

 

 

iPhone, iPhone 3G and 3GS
Image via Wikipedia

As technology allows components to get smaller, and more powerful, the “geeks” among us come up with ways to apply them to practical problems. In this case, it’s a project called “SixthSense.”

I have dabbled in voice recognition as far back as the Apple II+ days (that’s a long time ago. I didn’t even ask about the cost of the software, I just played with it at Apple World in Boston for as long as I could, in my first encounter. Now, voice systems at the other end of our phones “know’ our voices without us “training” them.

Move to the world of “gestures.” Even before the iPhone using mulittouch technology (reads two points and reacts based on relative movement between them), Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) had a set of gestures for things like add and delete characters and spaces, as you “typed” with your stylus.

 

Add to this the next small mix of current technology: Face tracking on your webcams. As you move, the digital controls have determined where your face is and automatically keep it centered with in it’s limits of digital or physical movement. That’s on your desk today. More sophisticated systems are being used for security purposes, too.

Now we do have the iPhone and may copycats, like the HTC Touch phone. Microsoft and other companies have demonstrated multi-touch of many more points and Apple has recently patented a multi-user/multi-touch system, that just knows the different sets of fingers and palms touching the display. Look for this type of technology to show up on your favorite high end restaurant’s table soon, with a direct interface to the kitchen and bar staff.

Now, I’ll get back to SixthSense, which requires a small projector and a camera, and a place to project on.  Basically, the projector becomes your display, and the camera sees what your hands are doing between you and the projected image.  Now the software takes over to allow the interpretation, in context, of the hand movements to provide a “Minority Report” like virtual reality display operated just by the motions of your hands in mid air.  Just think, that movie came out in 2002, and here we are, coming close to this being a common method of interacting with a digitally enhanced world.  Does life imitate art or does art imitate life?

This project is designed to be part of a wearable computing system.  Other projects, such as the Microsoft Natal, are for use with a fixed system, in front of your installed display (TV/computer monitor).

This really isn’t far off, and while the videos show the interaction is a little bit jerky, and the componets, as small as they are, are still somewhat unwieldy, this is what “engineering models” look like, and then some other engineers get to work doing things like integrating projectors and cameras and mirrors into a designer set of glasses frames, so it’s actually useful and comfortable.

“Early adopters” will be the people who take a Dremel Tool to that fancy biking helmet, and won’t mind the wires running down the back of thier shirt’s to connet to the battery and computer package.  Trust me, you’ll be repulsed and attracted, simultaneously, to this person and want to know how you can do it too, but you’ll only buy in if they can guarantee you that there is no residual “helmet hair” when you remove your “device.” This prototype was put together for $350 in parts. Amazing!

Interested in the bigger story?  Watch this video of the man who conceived and made this work:  Pranav MistryTED.

 

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Tuesday Tech Tips

Black Friday is coming….are you ready?

Just what do I mean by that?  Her’s some information on the basic cycle of the electronics industry tha will help you each year, about this time, to make some great decisions on how to spend your money.

The sales are great this time of year.  Beginning with Black Friday, you will see what looks to be incredible pricing.  Some of it really incredible if you want to get to the front of the store and camp out all night and be ready for the rush when the doors open.  Why?

Generally, new technology hits the market in late January/Early February.  New processors, new video cards, and all sorts of extra capabilities in existing equipment.  I suspect there will be plenty of “multi-touch” toys coming our way in the coming year, and possibly many more than just seeing two points of contact.  “Gesturing” will become more of a capability, as we find computers can recognize certain motions we can agree to have common meanings.  So, all this being said, why do I mention early 2010?  Simple:  You have to clear the warehouses and logisitics pipelines of the “old” stuff.  There you have a reason for the timing of the sales.  And…it also doesn’t hurt the retailers to make some bucks…

The deals will be good, on newly manufactured equipment, that may have been in the supply chain for many months now, and they aren’t even making that model any longer, but it has to be sold at the best price possible.  What will be on the shelves coming 1st Quarter next year?  New stuff, and some people will be lamenting 1)  Hey, I paid that much for a system that can’t do that! and 2) I got ripped off!

Well, if you always wait for the next best thing, you’ll never get to buy anything.  So…take you lumps, and know this:

  • You get to write it off for this year, if it’s a business related item.  That adds back some of the value
  • For most people, unless you must be on the bleeding edge of capability, you probably got a perfectly capable system for your needs.  If all you do is basic office type documents, and email, and use something like QuickBooks, you’re fine.  Most of those programs don’t demand even a portion of the computer’s power you have right now, that you are replacing.

Bottom line:  If you need a new system for routine business work, shop this holiday season and go for it.  If you need the cutting edge, at least wait until ‘the cutting edge” is the majority of what’s on the shelves come early next year, then buy it.  Some of that equipment is available now, but it’s very pricey still.

Bonus information:  You can have all the “cores” in the world, but there is a very limited amount of software that will use more than one processor (core) at a time.  It will be sometime before multi-core functional software is mainstream, so short of doing very high end video/photo editing, two cores are fine for just about everyone.

Tuesday Tech Tips

Another Tuesday, another opportunity to talk “tech.”

The world is changing rapidly. Not only in the technology that allows us to do amazing things. but how we use it. eMail is actually becoming yesterday’s news. Many haven’t gotten the memo, but it’s true. Social Media sites and their connectivity tools are becoming eMail 2.0. Trust me, keep an eye on that trend, and the smart marketeer will make sure they are positioned to take advantage of the methods.

Will you have to learn some more things? Oh, yes, but….what haven’t you had to learn along the way in life?

Hardware is shifting. I’m now connected with Liberty International because of their WOW Mobile cell phones. Guess what? It’s not actually a cell phone anymore, it’s a small computer and you now are sending your voice over VOIP, just like you do with your Brighthouse/ComCast/Vonage phone.

Speaking of Wow Mobile (ask me for details, you can actually get your all you can talk.surf/text and connect) bill covered by referrals!), it works on 3G GSM formatted networks. It will will also work on 4G (4th Generation) networks. Haven’t heard of those? That’s a technology coming soon (and in a few cities now) based on Wi-Max service, which is longer ranged and faster wireless data connections. Sprint bought Wi-Max a few years back and they are now rolling it out in major cities. With Wi-Max, you have the capability of surfing at speeds you’re used to at home, connected via hardwires. Consider the possibilites there for really going mobile.

Consider the computing power being crammed into the form factor of a cell phone, rivalling what we called “desktop” computers a few years ago. And it’s getting better faster. For those old enough, the Dick Tracy wrist watch will be far more than a communications device, and probably smaller soon. And don’t forget about display technology, where they are even forging ahead with implants for you eye. Dude! You can be watching the game during meetings! Oh, sorry, you can be reviewing the applicable spreadsheet to make intelligent comments on at the meeting…

Apple, the leader in making “You can’t do that” possible, has put in for a patent on multi-touch surfaces, where it can even distinguish between different people’s hands on the surface, so responses are customized.

reuslting from that will be new ways we communicate with the ultra small computing devices that allow us this capability. Think virtual keyboard and also…get ready…mind control of your typing! Yes, it’s now been done on Twitter by a man who has devoted much time to figuring out how to sense the mind’s waves and direct them. Think of the implications for the disabled….a whole new world awaits them!

The future is heading our way faster and faster and getting more affordable. Overlay that with our instant gratification desires and know your customers will soon be expecting constant and instant contact with you. That, in and of itself, will present an entirely new set of challenges for appropriate behavior (and how to manage and pay employees) in the near future.

So…keep your ears and eyes open and don’t miss the boat!