Tablet PC Thoughts

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

January 2006 CTO Breakfast

There was a large group this morning at the CTO Breakfast arranged by Phil Windley . It was fun to see people from Novell (even some ex-Novell employees) and even a friend of mine from SCO. This was probably one of the largest groups of people that we have had at one of these breakfasts. A good sign of interest!

Phil kicked off the conversation with a reference to a proposal in North Dakota to float cell phone "towers" over the state using weather balloons. I brought up a conversation from the 2005 Gilder Telecosm Conference this year where Klein Gilhousen, Co-founder; Senior Vice President, Technology, of Qualcomm talked about the Katrina disaster in New Orleans which left lots of people with cell phones ... with no way to call out due to the towers being down. He talked about hanging cell towers from helicopters, and also implementing peer-to-peer mesh networking in cell phone handsets. Cool ... I just found that can hear the Klein Gilhousen Telecosm 2005 audio.

I then brought up the Pop!Tech podcast "Mind and Body" podcast from ITConversations about the coming man machine interfaces. The story of Jesse Sullivan is an amazing thing to listen to. It details how far we have progressed in using computer systems to monitor nerve activity for the operation of artificial limbs. The doctor presenting talked about how they can now move nerves from the upper arm, and split and "regrow" them into muscle in the side of the chest. These nerves can then be monitored ... and the computer tranlates the signals into control signals for the artificial limbs. Watch the videos in the link above and you'll see how amazing the research is. The coolest part of the conversation was when they discovered that the sensory nerves were also growing! So they can even add artificial senses to the artificial limbs!

We then got off talking about DVDs, and the growth of storage. When I mentioned that I had seen the 320GB SATA drives at Costco for ~$179.00, Eric Smith brought up the ~$700 Buffalo Technology TeraStation storage server that he bought. Ok ... that is a cool. I turn-key terabyte storage server for under $1000! Ok ... and where will we be in 5-10 years? When will a turn-key petabyte storage server fall below $1000?

Bruce Grant then moved into a conversation about psuedo-AI. He is implementing a version of the "application substrate" ideas that we developed when we were both at SCO. The core concept is to create a set of portable component services that can be replicated, migrated, and connected in various ways to provide composite services. He is now looking for ways to create emergent services ... or simple ways for the average person to define some sort of high-level goal, and have the services create paths of connectivity automatically to create solutions. He's working on some very cool stuff ...

The topic of "thin-client vs. thick-client" came up when someone asked if we are about to see the turn back to "thick clients", or to "thin clients". This got me thinking, and I suggested that what we are actually watching is the natural progression of our perception of a "thick client" until the substrate that it exists on evolves more capacity. At this point we perceive the client as "thin". e.g. when we didn't have much processing power, a browser would be thought of as "fat" ... now that we have so much processing power, AJAX is referred to as a "thin" client. When processing and memory evolves forward further, virtualization will continue to evolve where running multiple entire instances of operating systems will be thought of as "thin"! My three year old son is going to be laughing 10-15 years from now when we talk about the platform limitations that we are experiencing now. What we perceive as a fat client today, will be seen as a background task 10 years from now.

One of the guys from Novell brought up No Machine ... a VNC-like solution for remote desktop computing. Another person brought up what Microsoft has been working on with their UI technologies, and also the AJAX Dojo project ... all various directions that UI, remote UI, and AJAX are continuing to make distributed netowrked computing occur.

From mobile devices we got talking about child ren using them, the user interfaces, and the way that children quickly adapt to new experiences. We got onto the conversation about children and computers, and that children often are more interested in the games on DVDs then the movie content itself! They seem to be wanting the constant interaction and challenge. I joked that eventually children are going to want more and more interactive media that ultimately they will realize that the most amazing, realistic interactive media is life itself! They will realize that going out the front door of their house will immerse them in the richest multimedia experience possible! Phil Burns brought up a book called Natural Born Cyborgs where he said that this is one of the core topics of the book.

Hamachi was brought up as a solution for encrypted peer-to-peer communications. This looks pretty cool and appears to be yet another growing start-up on the Internet. I always question a solution like this when it's not Open Source code ... what am I really installing on my machine?

There are a lot more topics that were discussed ... as usual too much to write about. I have to admit that I like to see the continuing tech culture growing here in Utah. There are more and more events where you can find people who are in tune with what is going on in the world and the Internet.

Phil Windley ... thanks for creating this breakfast!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Blastyx hits the net

The other day I spent some time with Phil Burns and the guys from Blastyx. We had fun creating a quick video about some of my wireless business ( and installation. I am still doing a lot of wireless R&D on the side ... outside of my day job at Agilix Labs. Blastyx is doing some very cool work, and they have some very interesting ideas on where to take next generation marketing. You can go and check out the video ... it's the "Wireless Mountain Man" video ...

Problems with style in blog posts

I got this blog post in my aggregator (Radio) a while back and have been meaning to post about it. It mirrors a problem that I have been experiencing as I have been hacking on Radio to add some new capabilities. This is a post from Phil Windley's blog ... and it shows where some of the use of CSS, Classes, and Styles breakdown.

As you can see below, when I viewed the post in my aggregator it appeared like this:

Geek Dinner Tonight.

I'll be speaking on microformats at the <a class="hcal" href="javascript:showpopbox('blogtools:0.9-a7369493d8a334254d358837dd47669d', 0, 20)" id="link_blogtools:0.9-a7369493d8a334254d358837dd47669d">geek dinner tonight. See you there.

What the heck? I'm guessing that the tags and attributes are being exposed due to some sort of issue in rendering the post, without having something from the base web page? I ran into something like this when I was working to embed pictures and photos in my posts. I wanted to hack a simple "image inserter" button into Radio ... and when I added some really cool Javascript it worked wonderful ... until you got my post in your aggregator.

I'm working on tweaking my code so that it will work fine without the base page ... but it was taking long enough that I delayed the project. I'll work on it more in the future. It was interesting to see that other people have the same issues with their posts.

The weird part? When I included Phil's post in my post ... it turned out like below! It's appears to be ok ...
Geek Dinner Tonight.

I'll be speaking on microformats at the geek dinner tonight. See you there.

[Phil Windley's Technometria]

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Early uploading research

I love being alive as we approach the next singularity. There is so much technology research occurring, and expanding in all directions. Uploading is coming to a neighborhood near you. For those of you not familiar with concepts of uploading, this is where computers are used to run simulations of a brain ... simulating all of the neural activity, and possibly then providing interfacing with the real world. In the future, this might even be a simulation of your brain. If it is a simulation of your brain, how much of your identity does it share with you?

So to do this, you have to scan the brain, create a neural map, then simulate the entire neural network within a computer. How likely will we see something like this in our lifetime? Well ... it's already begun:
Blue Brain Power: Modeling the brain with a supercomputer. Future Watch: The Blue Brain Project starts by mapping neurons in rats to simulate brain activity in the neocortical column, and it might eventually map the entire brain. [Computerworld Linux News]

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Progress with Asterisk

Funny how small the world is. I've been coming up to speed on the Open Source Asterisk PBX solution. One of the first things that you have to purchase are the cards for the PC that connect to phone lines. For my test solution, I want to have two phone lines connected into the PBX to do some basic call handling/call routing/voice mail/e-mail notification.

In reading up on this, the technical terms for what I want are FXO line cards. These are cards that act like a modem or phone and can "answer" calls. (NOTE: the other type of cards are FXS cards which allow you to connect a telephone to the PBX and the FXS card will "ring" the phone and provide dial-tone.) There are several solutions out there ... from cheap to quite pricey! I found a Digium 4-line card that can have FXO or FXS modules attached to it. For what I am doing right now ... it's too much money.

There is also a lot of talk about the Intel chipset modems that can work. Many Asterisk web sites refer to these as the X100P or X100P-clone cards. These are single-line cards that are actually "modems" with voice capabilities. In looking into this, I saw mentions of the $65 card ... and that's more what I was looking for. The best part is that I found the link to DigitNetworks and they are selling the X100P cards for $39.99. Even better ... they are on sale this month for $25.95! I just picked up two of these and ought to have them in the next day or so.

So with these two PCI cards, I'll be able to install them into my Linux box, and then install and configure Asterisk to use them. This ought to allow me to have the two lines answered - for two different companies - and walk the caller through a series of prompts to transfer them to the correct extension, or voice mail box. I'll blog more about it as I make progress.

So why is it funny how small the world is? It turns out that DigitNetworks is just up the road from here in West Jordan, Utah!

Ok ... that's a big jellyfish!

I woke up this morning to read and article on CNN about giant jellyfish that are wrecking havoc with the Japanese fishing instrustry. Holy cow ... these are *huge* jellyfish! I had no idea they got this big!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The evolution of RSS

It is very cool to see how RSS is being used for a wider range of solutions than just blogging. In experimenting with my iPod, I have been studying the RSS enhancements that Apple has started to use, and this article talks about a bunch of the enhancements that Microsoft is experimenting with.

Where I have been thinking a lot lately is on new ways to use RSS. Since there are now so many news aggregator applications that can consume RSS, it's about time to think of new ways to create feeds that are customized to the requestor. And these would not necessarily be the time-ordered "news" feeds ... but maybe new forms of reference material on demand. What about educational content being delivered on demand via RSS? You simply subscribe to a "feed" that begins to release content to you - posts or enclosures - on a regular basis. Your aggregator consumes the feed and presents you with the content is more of a "chapter-order". At some point, maybe there is even an extension that tells your aggregator that a feed is now "dead" ... or "finished".

I'm thinking about how I might experiment with these Microsoft extensions ... in addition to some of the things I'm doing with my iPod. In the field of "identity management" I begin to think about how I might want to give someone the ability to "subscribe" to "me". I could easily do this via SSL, and then add authentication. People who I want to share with could then subscribe to updates to my identity attributes. Things like sharing my GPS location could easily be done this way. It's fun to see this whole area of technology get more and more mature.
Microsoft making RSS a two-way street. Microsoft is creating extensions for the RSS syndication format to make it multidirectional, a move that could allow RSS to be used to synchronize information such as contacts and calendar entries across different applications. [Computerworld News]

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

January Utah Dev Geek Dinner

Tonight was the Dev Utah January Geek Dinner. There was a good turn out and it was fun to see some of hte people who came. This time there was a basic catered dinner, and then the fun began. Overall ... a big turn-out of geeks. There were a few people that I wanted to track down to ask questions about Asterisk ... I'm about to set-up my first Asterisk server.

During dinner, I talked with Russell Page of Politis Communications. One of his clients is Handheld Entertainment ... a company making extremely low cost handheld video devices. They actually sounded pretty cool. The devices start at $99 and are sold at Walmart. They really need some marketing folks ... their web site is pretty lame.

The first presentation was by Nathan Nelson of Nelson Legal. He started off by talking about various business issues with getting a company going. What legal entities exist, what types of steps to take to create them, etc. Pretty brief ... good information for the new entrepreneur.

Dave McKenzie then presented about Software Patents. He works at Kunzler & Associates and they focus on Intellectual Patent Law. He covered the standard stuff about patents, why and how you might want to file them. gave a brief presentation of their Software for Starving Students. It's actually a very cool CD that they have put together of a wide range of free software.

I'm going to post for now ... I'll post again when I get home if there was more stuff in the "after event". There are a few people that I want to catch up with ...

Converting DVDs and Videos for the Video iPod

I have to admit that it has been harder than I thought to find a free solution for converting DVDs and various other digital movies into the right format for the iPod ... on Windows. Yes, yes ... I know ... if I was using a Mac then it would just be there. But I'm not ... yet. (NOTE: I'm seriously interested in buying a iBook, PowerBook, MacBook at some point soon ... and I will.) For now, my primary laptop is running Windows, with Linux in Virtual PC. My Tablet PC is also running Windows. So I want a Windows solution. There are a number of commercial application that look good ... but I wanted to see what I could find for free.

I bought an iPod Video a while back, and have been doing most of my experimenting and research on the audio side of things. I moved from the music and smart playlists into podcasts. I've learned a lot, and see some very interesting ways that this platform can be leveraged into new businesses and business models. So what about video?

I've had a long experience with video and video editing ... starting with 3/4" tape decks in the late 70's ... and all the way up to my current digital video editing set-up. I wanted to know how to easily take a DVD, or existing digital video content, and get it converted to MPEG4 format and moved into my iPod. Here's what I found that seems to work:
  1. For doing the conversion of content I'm pleased with Videora and their Videora iPod Converter. Based on the Open Source FFmpeg project, this is a clean - and free! - application. It installed, and was easy to figure out and use. Once you install it, you can do "One Click" conversions, or create a queue of conversions and just allow your machine to run all night. Videora has an insteresting add-on that I might look at which is their automatic downloading tool - Videora. So that is the solution for converting video to the proper format.
  2. For grabbing video from a DVD, I found the Open Source DVDx project at SourceForge. I'm going to test this tonight, however the claim is that it will rip a DVD to various digital video formats ... which I can then feed into my Videora iPod Converter. It appears to work easy enough, and there are other people using this tool for this same purpose.
So I'm about to jump into really using my Video iPod and seeing what might be interesting to take on the road. In my initial test, I'm impressed by the size and video image ... I'll have to watch a few videos to really see if I like it or not. In either case, I now have two key tools to be able to get content into the right formats for the iPod!