Tablet PC Thoughts

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What is up with Firefox Updates?

For the last while, I have been aware of the Firefox v2.x release. What has really surprised me is that the Firefox Update check has never told me to go and get it!

Just today ... for the last time . .. I launched Firefox, and then went to the "Help -> Check for Updates ..." menu. The dialog that appeared stated "No Updates Found. There are no new updates available. Firefox may check periodically for new updates." What? No notice at all that there is a whole new generation of the browser?

As a general marketing rule, it seems to me that you always make sure to let the customer know about products that you want them to use! I can't believe that Firefox would not tell me that v2.x is now out there and available to download.

P.S. If people want to tell me about the difference between an Upgrade and an Update ... or that v1.5.x is a different product from v2.0.x ... I don't want to hear it. This is all about marketing and getting the word out. For the general population that doesn't follow the tech news, Firefox would benefit the most from making these blatant announcements!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Materials Science ... gel body armor!

I love to read about new technologies like this ... something truly futuristic ... a "viscous gel" in a vest that is fluid until struck or impacted ... then it turns to a hardened material. Afterwards ... it returns to a gel. Bullet-proof vests that morph ... very cool!
Prison Guards Saved by Syrup. A new viscous gel that hardens on impact could make bulky, conspicuous body armor a thing of the past. By Vince Beiser from Wired magazine. [Wired News: Top Stories]

Portable keyboard for mobile computing

Nice ... I like it. It's a portable keyboard like no other. Simply sit it down and turn it on ... there are serial and Bluetooth versions. For those who want a full size keyboard for their mobile devices ... this is a very cool solution!
Review: A virtual keyboard for any surface. I-Tech virtual laser keyboard uses infrared and laser technology to project an outline of a full keyboard onto any surface. [Computerworld Breaking News]

Monday, January 22, 2007

Understanding the coming future ...

This is an awesome blog post about many of the key terms, areas of research, and conversations that are going on around the world related to the coming future. Anyone interested in the future ought to read through this list of key terms, and the associated links, and come up to speed on what the great minds around the planet are thinking of.

This list of terms and links will take you on a great journey through some amazing theories and discussions ... this is the type of thinking that I live for. For those who don't want to read it all ... we're in for a wild ride!
Must-know terms for the 21st Century intellectual: Redux. George P. Dvorsky has created a list of the most fundamental and crucial terms that re-define the human condition and should be known by any expert generalist.

They include Accelerating Change, Anthropic Principle, Artificial General Intelligence,... [ Accelerating Intelligence News]

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Humanimals ... or Animans?

When I read an article like this one, it really causes me to stop and think. This article is talking about the discussions being held about the legality of combining animal and human material. What makes me stop and think is that the discussion is not about if it is now possible!

It's now completely possible ... and so now just a matter of time. What will the resulting creatures be called ... when someone takes it all the way?
Animal-human hybrid cloning deferred. Controversial proposals to make embryos by merging human and animal material remain on hold following a decision on Thursday by the UK regulator of embryo research.
The researchers want to use cow or rabbit eggs as a short cut to making cloned em... [ Accelerating Intelligence News]

Privacy ... still just a case of obfuscation ...

Once again we are reminded that "privacy" is simply a case of obfuscation. We have "privacy" only because it is too difficult to sense certain things. We have the "privacy of our own homes" only becuase others can not see what goes on "behind closed doors."

This article is demonstrating that even that level of privacy is slowly eroding. With the newest version of this product, different military and police agencies can actually "see" through walls. Now obviously this is something that will be very costly as a product ... but with the rapid evolution of technology, how long until you or I will be able to purchase a device like this? 10 years? 5 years? 3 years? It is inevitable that we will have our own personal versions of this before too long ...
Company with a camera that sees through walls gets $14 million. Blog: Camero, a company out of Israel that has developed a camera that can "see" things through solid walls, has raised $14 million,... [CNET]

Sunday, January 14, 2007

iPhone ... is theirPhone ...

Well, it's already turning into a bummer. It appears that the iPhone is going to be locked down against 3rd party applications. What a loss. I was really looking forward to some sort of developer angle here ... but it seems that Apple is going to lock things up tightly when it comes to applications for the iPhone. From this article:
But it’s not like the walled garden has gone away. “You don’t want your phone to be an open platform,” meaning that anyone can write applications for it and potentially gum up the provider's network, says Jobs. “You need it to work when you need it to work. Cingular doesn’t want to see their West Coast network go down because some application messed up.”
In addition, I'm hearing more and more that they are locking the phone tight to the Cingular network ... not allowing you to change to alternate networks. David Isenberg comments on the same issues in his blog post: Apple blows it. I agree with him completely ... I'm shocked at the complete lock-in that Apple is creating around the iPhone. Bummer.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The mediaFORGE videoWrapplet ...
For the last six months I've been working with mediaFORGE here in Salt Lake City, Utah as CTO. It's been a fun place to work as we have been combining some interesting back-end technologies for doing viral marketing analytics. As we began to work with Internet Videos, we started to think about some new ways to embed more than just one video within a portion of web page real estate.

As we were developing some other solutions for our customers, I worked with one of my developers to create a basic video player that we call our videoWrapplet. This little Flash application can be embedded in almost any web page, and provides a simple way to maintain a playlist of videos, and embed them into your home page, blog, Myspace page, or other website. What is fun is that you can create your account through this widget, and then login, edit your playlist, and get the HTML codes to embed in your page through the widget also. You can add any .flv flash video into your playlist, and so we support videos from a wide range of sites - YouTube, Google, Myspace, etc. You can also resize the player to be any size you want down to 200 pixels wide, and up to a full page width.

We also created a web site called cinemaFORGE where you can check out the videoWrapplet, and also where we aggregate some of the analytics about what videos people are playing in the videoWrapplet. We're about to add some analytics on the popular playlists also.

To get your videoWrapplet for your page simply click the "login" button on the videoWrapplet to the right, and then click the "Create an Account" button ... you'll pick a username, password, and provide an e-mail address and that's it! Once you confirm the e-mail address you can then login through the Wrapplet and begin to populate the playlist with your own videos. While logged in you can click the "Put this on your page..." bar and it will open revealing the codes to embed in your page.

I figure that some folks will think of some cool things they can do with this, and I was hoping to see someone use this to embed their vidcasts into their blog page. I'm about to do exactly that. If you check it out, and think of some cool ideas that you would like to see, then please visit our forums ... they are linked to by the graphic at the bottom of the player. We have a lot of ideas on where we want to take this ... I want to hear some of your ideas!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

My $0.02 about the iPhone

Ok ... it's cool. So far I like what I have read, except for a couple of things ... which I expected.
  1. The price. Wow ... that is a lot of money for a phone. I know that it is more than a phone, but ouch. I'm also a little cautious about the cost of the cellular plans also. I already use Cingular and the data plans are not the most aggressive. The interesting part is that I already know they are going to sell as many as they can make. Steve Jobs knows how to market.
  2. The storage. This really caught me off-guard. Only a 4GB and 8GB version? I have become so used to my 80GB Video iPod that I can't even imagine going back to only 8GB. I really enjoy taking such a huge portion of my music collection - along with several videos and numerous podcasts - everywhere that I go. I would really have to reset how I use my iPod if I was going to drop back to only 8GB. Maybe I shift to using my phone ... oops, I mean iPhone (trademark Cisco Systems) ... for all of the podcasts, but still keep my Video iPod for my music, etc.
  3. Touch Screen. As usual, Steve has outdone himself as the iPhone appears to have even further enhanced the user interface. I have always liked touch-pads and touch interfaces, and hearing about some of the new multi-finger aspects really impressed me. It has me thinking about how natural some of this is going to become.
  4. Application Support. I'm also impressed with this aspect ... it appears that this is OS-X and has support for the Apple Widgets. If there is truly compatibility with the standard development environment for Widgets this is going to really open up development for the phones. In addition, if Apple has truly opened up the iPhone and it's APIs, then things are going to get fun. When I last looked at some of the API limitations, I was unable to write an application that could access the camera, and even the text/SMS interfaces. I'm hoping that Apple will break through these barriers.
  5. Battery Design. I had heard about the two-battery design, and it makes complete sense. Cool idea. Now if I use my iPhone for music too much ... I don't kill the battery for my phone. Nice.
I stopped by the Apple store here in Salt Lake City today. They said they have no idea when they will see one. It'll be interesting to see when the iPhone begins to show up everywhere. I'm sure that it won't be too long. It's already the thing to be seen using ...

Monday, January 08, 2007

Video vs. Audio ... an iPod feature that I want!

This weekend I spent some time with some friends that are into podcast and vidcasting. As we discussed the huge explosion in Internet video content, I started to think about some of the implications. I actually think that the growth of video content is about to drive even more audio content.

My reasoning is that video is simply more difficult to consume than audio! I can listen to audio almost anywhere, anytime. I can listen while driving, working, skiing, etc. Video on the other hand is a much more demanding sensory experience. It requires that I commit far more attention to it, and I can't do it when driving, skiing ... well ... any time that I have to be present to things that might kill me. :-)

As I thought more about this, I realized that two things might emerge. The first will be more attention being paid to the audio tracks being done for video content. This will involve careful production of videos that can be listened to ... audio only. The second thing will be new generations of multimedia players - like the iPod - that allow you to turn off the video when "listening only" to a video. So when I go skiing, I can listen to a video without burning up my batteries displaying content that I'm not even watching!

My request to Apple ... please give me an option to turn off the video display on my iPod when I want to ... so that I can listen when I can't watch!

Second Life ... still controlling the (virtual) world!

Wow ... what a quick reaction ... but not quite enough, in my opinion. Linden Research quickly announced the release of the Second Life client into Open Source. I actually love the name of this blog post by phoenix linden ... Embracing the Inevitable. It announces the release of their client software into Open Source, and where to go and get it. There is an issue though ... they are still holding onto the control of the virtual world by not releasing the server software ... yet. As David Kirkpatrick at Fortune reports:
While this initial step will open up what is essentially the user's window into Second Life for modification, it will leave Linden Lab in control of the proprietary software code for all Second Life's backend services - the server software that makes the world exist. However, executives say that the company's eventual intention is to release an open source version of that software as well, once it has improved security and other core functions. They say they have been preparing for the open source move for about three years.
Yes ... this is not enough to provide a free and open platform for virtual existence. I do see where this is a prudent business move to create even more of a lock on the entire market though. Linden seems to now be pushing to create de-facto standards of their client APIs and protocols by creating a group of developers who write to this environment.

My worry is if it took them three years to get the client out to Open Source, how long will it take them to get the server software out?

I believe that the pressure is mounting as other well-funded companies continue to explore the space ... as this quote from IBM demonstrates:
IBM Vice President for Technical Strategy Irving Wladawsky-Berger, a close student of Second Life, heard about the impending move toward open source from a Linden employee. "They have the right thought," he says, "which is that open source things work with the marketplace. But this is a field in its infancy that will be very competitive. Linden Lab might end up with a huge leadership position in a certain class of tools for virtual worlds, but those might not be the right tools for, let's say, a surgeon learning a new procedure in an immersive online environment. Second Life can be wildly successful, but so can others."
I do not think that IBM and others are sitting still. Neither am I. I'm heading over to download the APIs reference materials now ... :-)

P.S. I just thought of an interesting "client" to create for Second Life. What if there was an "augmented reality" client that was created that would overlay the Second Life world onto the real world? Maybe create someplace in the desert - like at Burning Man - that would allow you to have GPS tracking on yourself, and then wearing augmented reality goggles you would be seeing some portion of the Second Life world? As you wandered around the desert, your view would be augmented with the terrian of Second Life, and the other people wandering around in reality would be overlayed with their graphical avatar. Hmmmm ...

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Open Source Second Life

It's really not a question of if. It will happen. It's just a matter of when.

Second Life is gaining more and more attention, and more and more users. As I write this there are now 2.3 million user accounts, with 20,000+ users now on-line. It's really impressive ... but another lock-in application. Once you join and begin to pay ... you are captive forever. This is obviously a good deal for Linden Research, Inc. - the owners of Second Life - but not the way that the Internet likes to evolve and develop.

For those not yet familiar, Second Life is a very impressive virtual world. The kind of place that was forecasted and imagined by authors for decades ... the kind of place described in Snow Crash. In Second Life you can create an avitar ... a character ... to represent you in the virtual world. You can wander through a wide range of virtual land, buildings, boats, businesses, and fantasy objects. If you want to, you can purchase virtual property, and "own a home."

The problem is that it is all a huge lock-in right now. You are limited to their servers, their designs, their tools, and their rules. Oh ... and you pay their rates. Want to buy some land? Here is how to buy land in Second Life. Want to buy a private island? Here is how to buy a private island in Second Life. Wait! What is going on here! These rates are even higher than my real-world property taxes!

So what can I do about it? Nothing. Right now, there simply is not a Open Source Second Life solution. Let's call this Third Life. (Of course that domain name is already taken ...) What has to emerge is the Open Source platform that I can download and install on my own hardware and bandwidth. Where I can set the rules, and define how things work. Of course, as my server would only represent some small parcel of land, I would have to work agreements with others to create portals to travel between my land, and other peoples land. So maybe several of my friends and I might join our servers together to create a larger landmass.

There are even some other interesting ideas that could emerge from this ... such as using a commercial for-pay service like Second Life as the "connector" between private servers. What if there was an apartment building in Second Life, and when your character comes to the door of my apartment in Second Life, I actually have the option to connect my server to the other side of that door? So entering that portal transports you from Second Life to my private server. To me, this is the inevitable future for virtual worlds ... one that is open and interconnected, freely allowing people to pay to use "hosted virtual worlds" like Second Life, or to choose the option of hosting their own.

Their are two possible solutions for this to occur ... one is for Second Life to open their platform - and source code - to the world to use. The other is for the next generation of virtual worlds to emerge from the Open Source community. I hear rumblings of Second Life/Linden Research and what they might do, however it appears to be to push the business model and "open standard" more than Open Source. Of course, there are other people like Glyn Moody who also see Why We Need a Open Source Second Life. Even Ben King at The Register articulates the value of Open Source Second Life in his article Open sourcing Second Life.

The most impressive Open Source solution that I am now seeing is Croquet. Croquet is being developed by some brilliant minds, and is already out there and working. I'm about to install the lastest versions and begin to experiment, however much of the core is in place. As the networking layers solidify, we'll see how quickly you and I can get our own Croquet servers up and running, and begin to link them together via portals.

What is interesting is that I am beginning to see a parallel between this, and the beginnings of the World Wide Web. Instead of Web Servers, we have Croquet Servers. Instead of hyperlinks, there is now the world of TPostcards. And unlike the World Wide Web ... the client and server are the same.

I can't wait ... and I know it will occur. It's all just when ...