Archive for the 'personal' Category

What Sci Fi/Tech movies do to me

January 25, 2008

Maybe I believe that our current “relationships” with computers is too one sided (we put in the work – they get all of the glory).  Or , maybe I need to recognize how truly valuable my computer is.  If the later is true then i don’t think that movies like the Minority Report, Sunshine, any Star Wars or Star Trek or god forbid the Matrix – are for me.

Sure I know they are all designed for entertainment and yes I was truly entertained, but I was also given a belief.  A belief that we should expect more from our computers and they should “gasp” be more intelligent.

I used to be a software engineer so I know what it takes to make a computer sing and I truly respect the software developers of this world. (they made this blog post possible for goodness sake).

So my gripe is really not with them, I fully understand the limitations of the medium and the power of the tools they are given.  My real gripe is with the movie producers and the movie directors and those idea people in Hollywood who insist on making movies that demonstrate “almost there” technology.

Ever got tired of sitting at a computer tip typing away for 8 hours straight?  If you are a developer then I know that the answer is yes.  Sure you like solving problems. Sure the ability to make something out of nothing is intriguing and satisfying.  But – ever sit down and wonder what you could get done with a few of these applications:

Mind Job Runner – using your telepathic connection from your car you connect to your work computer and inform it that its time to do a disk defrag.  Or you use that same connection to your home computer to purchase the new Foo Fighters album and to send it to your cars embedded computer so you can listen to it on the way home.

Mundane Task Recognizer – ever installed (or reinstalled) a program on a machine 200 times?  If you are in IT you have.  Why not have a program which recognizes that you are doing a task for the ump-teen time and that since you probably haven’t done that differently in the 4 years since you started the mundane task it could be done with a script.

Computer: “I noticed that you have completed this task 12 billion times before – instead of doing it 12 billion and one times, would you like me to record this script for playback at a later date?” 

User: “Yes, computer that would be great (in a slightly sarcastic voice)”.

Collective Task Manager – since you do everything over the Internet why can’t a program recognize when you are planning a Snowboard trip and begin helping you complete your tasks

Computer: “From your emails to your wife I see that you are planning a trip up north for the week of the 25th.  Would you like me to scan deals and set up arrangements at the best mountain?”

User: “Why yes, and while you are at it, can you scan recent ratings posted on blogs, wikis and emails regarding the current conditions at my 8 favorite mountains to see which will be our best option?”

Computer: “Sure, would you also like for me to cross reference those with the latest predicted weather patterns to ensure which mountains have the bes probability of some fresh snow?”

User: “You know what that would be great – thanks computer (smiling profusely).”

Umm… yeah so you see – I have an issue with Sci-Fi/Tech movies.  They make we want so much.

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Net neutrality and a hint of outrage

December 10, 2007

In response to the article on “Net Neutrality” posted on Wired’s website:
In Test, Canadian ISP Splices itself into Google homepage

For those Rogers Internet Customers that happen to read this which are “Ok” with being notified that your ISP will be charging you more because you have reached your download cap, two things:

1.) God bless me if I ever have to keep track of the amount of content that is downloaded. I am cool with ‘minutes’ on my cell phone and tracking my energy consumption at home. I am sure that the day will come (read ‘Being Digital‘) when I am charged for the amount of Internet – I hope it is not in the near future, and I hope that I am really rich when it happens because I use the Internet a lot.

2.) The issue at hand here is not that the ISP is trying to contact you, it is the mechanism in which they are doing it. If we allow information from websites to be modified (for any reason) we will enter what many deem to be a slippery slope. Where does it end?

If you are all OK, with Rogers modifying the content from a web page, then you will more than likely be OK if Rogers created a nice little desktop application that you could install. The application could sit in your systray and notify you when you are getting close to your cap. Presumably this application could be built into a Toolbar option (for the more sophisticated users) similar to the new toolbars present in the Flock Web browser.

This approach achieves the same goal but in a less intrusive way.

Leaving the HTML alone is something that should be regulated and there should be stiff penalties against modifying original sources.

What about Syndication?
Now, with that said – the sticky side to Net neutrality. What about RSS and other languages used to syndicate content. What to do with these.

My view – the published web page retrieved from the registered URL should remain untouched. That is, if Google publishes content at http://www.google.com that content should be deemed “untouchable”. It, like other publicly available sources, remains part of the Google domain of ownership much like say a book.

Syndicated content should fall under this same ruling. Where it gets difficult is when you talk about aggregations. I believe users should be able to slice up content as they see fit (i.e. if a feed has 10 links I should be able to show only 5 of these, as long as I do not modify the individual content – link, title, date, description). If I want to reorder these or combine them with other links I should be able to do so.

I think complexities like this will prevent a binding Net neutrality law but we should set social guidelines and live by them even if there is no legislation.

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Will “the writer’s” strike kill network television

November 26, 2007

Sometimes innovation is introduced by accident. On other occasions innovation has been purchased. We sometimes see innovative ideas spread through grass roots efforts and on some occasions, we see innovation because of unique opportunistic changes.

Take this writers strike. Many of us are still baffled by the fact that all three major networks and all 1 billion (seems like it anyways) other networks are so radically affected by one group of people. I know that this strike represents the power of unions (the AFLCIO is one of our customers so I know all about unions) and I am all about unions. However, I am not so sure that a strike by this powerful union and the early demise of the 2007 prime time television season is such a good idea.

One of the items that the writers guild is complaining about is that they do not receive fair compensation from the sale of DVD’s and the revenue sharing for shows that are aired over the Internet.

I have spent some quality time with Joost recently (4 days off with friends and family that you have not seen in a while – a long with some late night quality time with friends) and I have to say that I am impressed.  The idea is not all that innovative except that the content is offered exclusively over the Internet.  Essentially, they have “channels” where you can find different content.  They have content ranges from comedy to sports and almost everything else in between.  I am not sure exactly how many channels by they claim to have over 15,000 episodes.  Now granted some of these “episodes” are one minute long and it can be difficult to find quality episodes that last more than 10 minutes but here are a few things me and my family enjoyed over the weekend:

  • 3 full length Snowboard movies
  • several 20 minute extreme sports shows from “MuchMusic” – a content provider for mainstream television
  • Season one episodes of the original Transformers (Mikull – you have to see it)
  • Videos of all the latest songs from MTV and other stations
  • David Letterman’s top 10 lists (great for last call)

If you want to watch last weeks Patriots game or the MLS championship you may not be in luck but the model represents an interesting shift in entertainment.  Much like YouTube but only better quality.  My Joost watching was done on a 27 inch Westinghouse HD LCD TV and at full screen it had no problems.  The shows are “interrupted” with a very small advertisement (about 1/64th of the screen) in the bottom hand corner of the screen.  And since the user can be targeted (hello targeted ads again) the advertisements can be sold for more, they can be more relevant (no more feminine product ads during my viewing time).
Remember when you were a kid (if you grew up in the 70’s and 80’s) and all you had was 4 channels?  You still watched it. I think that this new medium (the Internet – he he) is really in it’s infantile stages. There are new “tools” popping up every day.  I just looked at the new product from Adobe called the Adobe Media Player.  Although the name and interface are lame and the content is lammer, it did have streaming HD and it was very quick – not so good at full screen but pretty good.

Now I can’t say for sure that I will be using Joost every day but I can say that at a time when there will be sparse new content on the old school media (good bye TV) I can say that I will be looking elsewhere for my entertainment.  The Writer’s Guild better be sure that I don’t find something very interesting or they may have walked themselves right of a job.

Commentary: 110% is not a bad thing

October 9, 2007

I want to comment on a post I read today, by what I would consider to be an expert in the field of Ajax and Web Development in general. I ran across this post today while I was searching for some help on a Spry problem that I was having and it was completely ironic.

The post is called ‘Don’t Give 110%…‘ and it goes into saying:

I would rather have a steady concerted effort than a stressed out push full of mistakes. I want someone on my team who can give me 100% of their effort on a consistant basis rather than someone who gives 80-90% (or less), consistantly, then tries to push the last little bit with a “110%” effort.

Definitely some some sound advice from someone who I am sure “consistently” 😉 gives 100% all of the time. When I first started reading the post I was a bit taken a back. Who in their right mind would ever ask for someone not to give them %110. I was about to comment on his blog how that was a rather strange post for someone who is considered a “leader” in the field (at least within the Spry Framework field) when I remembered why I was there.

I found myself at this spot because I was having difficulty with a particular bit of Ajax code I was working on for our new demo site set to release with our product. It worked fine in Firefox but not in IE and so when I searched for help I “stumbled upon” his blog post and was intrigued.

As the day wore on (and I eventually found my problem) I realized that at one angle he has a point. But I think that it needs to be clarified at least.

What I define as 100% and what someone else might define as 100% are totally different things. When I do something I like to do it right. I pay attention to detail. I enjoy the finer parts of complete analysis and thorough execution. However, when you are a perfectionist, something is never really “done”. So how does one define 100% on a solution to a problem or execution of a project that could always be a little bit better.

What is 100% in todays hyper sensitive, uber-attention filled days. Is it participating in a project without any distractions from outside noise? Is it focusing constantly on the problem until you solve it (assuming there is a solution). Don’t know.

I can tell you this: What I was having a problem with (which consumed nearly 45 minutes of my day – and distracted one other individual for more than 10 of those) was a stupid error caused by what I can only imagine could be defined as “fatigue”.

So is my “giving 110%” causing my performance to go down? I am taking on too many projects with little time to complete them to 100% – maybe.

Or, am I a looking at executing my tasks at 110% of my capabilities all the time, whether I spend 1 minute or5 hours. Giving 110% is not only subjective it is relative.

IM vs. E-mail

September 26, 2007

I really do hate IM. Not because I use it for more than 80% of the time, but because it is so annoying. Wait a minute, did I say “IM”? I meant E-mail. Sorry for the confusion. I love IM. Way better than E-mail (at least for most things). Don’t get me wrong, if I received as many IM’s in a day as e-mail’s I would really never get anything done.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the new communication world. I use Twitter (sort of) and I have an active Facebook account, I love LinkedIn and more than 75% of my IM list are either people that I work with directly or users of our software CommonSpot. And you know what, I really don’t mind.

I look at the people that I IM for work as “my” community. Those individuals that don’t have to wait for e-mail. If I am there, and I am not busy then let’s go for it. Get it out of the way. The great thing about it is, the people that I IM know when to IM and when to E-mail. And it is not like it is some written rule like we agreed: “Subjects that begin with A and B are E-mail material while, X through Z are IM … got it?”. It is understood.

E-mail me with the details of the proposal that you need or the contact information for that person that you need me to talk to. IM me when I haven’t done it in 4 days. Or when you have a quick question and just need to know if there is an answer out there. IM me when you are interested in how I am doing or what I have been up to (although I am relying on Twitter to handle the day to days from now on). Don’t send me lengthy IM’s and don’t send me short E-mails.

One might think that with “clients” online at all time (10 or so are on right now) that I spend most of my time IM’ing. In fact, I don’t. However, there are a few things about IM that make the interruptions “bearable”.

1.) I don’t have to answer… more often than not, a failed IM is _not_ followed up by an email. Either they found what they were looking for, or after some thought realized that it was not important (Note: I don’t miss a _lot_ of IM messages =)

2.) I can talk to more than one person at a time… It is not uncommon to have 3 or 4 conversations going at time. Although I prefer one open channel at once, my brain can handle many topics at a time. (Gets tricky when you accidentally post to your wife that you think the proposal looks good and you hope they like the numbers)

3.) Makes reading e-mail a bit easier… if you have a question that requires a 2 second response, don’t take up space in my inbox (I only get 500MB which is very difficult to maintain these days – even with auto archive set to ‘on’)

4.) I feel more in touch with people – but not too in touch… when the tables are turned and I need something or I want to say thanks, it is a less intrusive way to say so. Don’t stop what you are doing, but let me tell you something…

5.) People feel more in touch with me – but not too in touch… when the see me on line and the want to just say hi, it is better than e-mail. I have had 2 hour conversations over IM (while watching TV or doing other work).

I am not saying that IM is the answer to this communication problem we have these days. However, I am saying, that it has a place. It fits right in between E-mail and the Phone. In some respects it is even better than the phone. Try having 4 phone conversations at the same time. Can’t happen.

Gathering thoughts about SN, Web 2.0 and everything else

August 12, 2007

http://www.calacanis.com/2007/07/27/facebook-bankruptcy

 

 

One of my “friends” on Facebook posted a link to this BRILIANT blog post which has filled me with a ton of energy.  I am trying to figure out where to aim this and I guess I am hoping that you can help.  I have a few angles of discussion from this post and I need to know where to focus (may help to actually read the post =) :

 

1.) These applications that are popping up (Facebook, LinkedIn, Pownce, Twitter, ???) – are they opportunistic software application developers taking advantage of the hype of Web 2.0 to make a buck (or million) or are they opportunistic software application developers taking advantage of the shift in our societies decision to communicate more openly/freely over the Internet to make software that helps enable true “enhanced connectivity”?

 

2.) Is his disgusted with the Social Network System and his inability to internalize what is going on here (we are completely shifting our Communication techniques).  Is he part of the “older” generation that just can’t understand how to fit this into his daily actions?  Hyper connectivity anxiety disorder?

 

3.) Is he trying to get people to think further down the road?  Can we honestly think that the current state of Social Networking is the “Way it will be”?  Why do we have to travel around to all of these different sites?  Why do we have to post on other people’s blogs (only to loose that communication later when the user decides to close up shop?)  Should we think about shaking up the model a bit and leverage the Internet to communicate in a whole new way?

 

4.)Unrelated – I have travelled quite a bit over the last 2-3 years and I have met a ton of young professionals who either don’t know that much about social networking or find it to be a  waste of time.  To be honest I am not sure that I would have learned as much as I did if I hadn’t been on the road.  With a wife and two children, time is a precious commodity.

 

One of the conversations that I have been having recently is how we as a society is not interested in information for the long term anymore.  We are “experience” animals that search for the “next best thing”.   We revel in the challenges to achieve it (getting from A to Z is half the fun) but are disinterested as soon as we do.  Moving on to the “next best thing”.  We are an ADHD society who have been transformed into “minute-memories”.

 

Our means of communications have shifted towards this – IM, Text Messaging, Blogging etc…  We are very interested in the now – and NOW moves faster then any of could believe.

 

The nagging question for all of this – what does it mean to the next generation of “communicators”?  When they have grown up on Text Messaging, IM and {gasp} Twitter?  And more importantly, how can we establish these new levels/channels of communications so that these new communicators are capable of achieving more then we have.

 

I am certainly not claiming “Facebook Bankruptcy” but I have denied the Zombie requests and I continue to edit my “iLike” portion of my site (and encourage others to do the same).

Live television and “Extreme Sports” – a match made in heaven?

August 3, 2007

X-Games LogoBy nature I am a pretty reserved person but there is a special place in my heart for “Extreme Sports”. You know – freestyle motocross, snowboarding, skateboarding, BMX etc… I was a part of the inaugural X-Games which was held in Newport, RI. And was in attendance when Corey Hart (married to pop artist Pink) attempted the first ever back-flip on a motorcycle. It was absolutely insane and everyone in attendance was in disbelief. The sport had elevated (as if jumping 100 feet at 45 miles an hour on a dirt track needs elevation). That was back in 1997.

ESPN has been televising the X-Games since it’s inception back in 1995. In previous years they always edited the footage and televised the events a few weeks after it happened. As the sporting event became more popular (moving from it’s “try-out” spot of Providence Rhode Island to its now more larger venue – Los Angeles California) the idea of “taped” games wore off. So a couple of years ago they started to televise these live. Which brings us to today and what I witnessed last night.

The Setup
The event is called “Big Air”. One can only imagine what “Big Air” actually means to these insane athletes who feed on adrenaline. The inventor of this competition is Danny Way (he was part of the third generation skateboard phenomenon’s who helped pioneer mainstream skateboarding and helped make skateboarding what it is today). The idea is this:

Stand on top of an 80 foot ramp (yes I said 80 feet) and then get on your skateboard. Travel down this ramp (it is only about 8 feet wide) at speeds of up to 40 mph. Then make a selection between 3 different jumps with varying angles and “gaps”. The shortest being 40 feet the largest being 70 feet (no exaggeration) remember this is a skateboard and it is going 40 mph. Then once you have safely “landed” on the other side of the gap, you go down another ramp until you make your way to a huge 30 foot “quarter pipe” ramp. The entire distance traveled from end to end is over 250 feet (yes almost as long as a football field). Then when you hit the quarter pipe you get air (i.e. you travel upwards of 20 feet higher then the top of the 30 foot ramp – psst. 50 feet in the air). You then come down and “land” on the wall of the quarter pipe heading back the way you came (still traveling 30 mph). Ok, so if that is not enough add this in: Over that 70 foot gap you do a 720 (2 rotations) and when you hit the top of that 30 foot quarter pipe you do a 540. INSANE

This “sport” has evolved over the last couple of years and has now become the sickest event at X-Games. If you have the chance to see this “setup” on TV, look in the foreground of the “ramp”. You will see the Motocross “Big-Air” jump. It looks like a sandbox.

So on to my question – is this good for television. I can tell you I do look forward to watching both the Summer and Winter X-Games since neither of them are near my house any more and my kids are not old enough *yet* to travel to see one of these events. I would say they are pretty popular. Then last night put doubt in mind.

When I watched this on TV I got out of my seat and almost lost my breath (my body still produces chills when I think about it). I said to my wife (who was not watching) “Oh my god, that guy just died on TV”. She asked me “Is it live”. I said “yes”.

I have witnessed several other “gross” events in T.V. history – I remember when Joe Thiesman’s leg was broken on Monday Night football – I remember when Napolean Kaufman appeared to be cut in half when he was stopped at the line of scrimmage. The X-Games has had it’s fair share of accidents – I have even seen people like Ryan Nyquist break is nose in practice only to get stitches and place second in the competition an hour after – so I guess this ranks up there. But for godsakes the dude’s shoes fell off! The most “amazing” thing about this was that within 15 minutes he “walked” off the ramp. I have not looked yet to see what his status is but I can say that he broke several bones in several places.

What is going to happen when we see the first live death on television? We all know the impact Steve Irwin had on the web’s video revolution. I still have daily hits from search engines for my Steve Irwin post.

Will the Wii get any followers?

July 16, 2007

There is no question that the Wii has changed the world of console based gaming. In a time when the other game consoles were focusing on high powered (high cost) graphic engines designed to produce the most realistic gaming systems to date, the Wii focused on the controller. They have built an interface which has truly changed how gaming systems are perceived, at least for the general public. The question remains though, will their be any followers? Will we see the “gyro-controller” for the PS3 or the “sensor-plate” for the X-B0x 360?

They say that imitation is the ultimate source of flattery so why haven’t we seen more innovative controllers from the other major game consoles? Or, even a new gaming console that no one has heard? I am sure that Nintendo has all sorts of patents on the controller but until the Wii arrived, controllers had not changed that much. In the last two major console releases there were no added buttons or features in the controller.

So, if the Wii is so revolutionary and they have completely changed family entertainment, then why are they still all alone? If the time to production of the Wii is any indication, then it may just be a matter of time. Or, is the Wii simply a fad, a blip on the screen? CNN.com seems to think that the Wii may at some time soon become “the biggest hit in the industry’s history“, topping Play Station 2 (which is currently at over 120 million consoles shipped the Wii is currently at about 8 million) .

While I think that the Wii has certainly struck a cord and expanded the console game systems beyond the everyday “gamer”, I am skeptical about it’s wide acceptance amongst the entire gaming community. Hopefully, the folks at Nintendo have taken the time to produce the killer controller and are now working on adding the graphics horsepower found in the other major consoles.

Amazing Controller’s + Extreme Graphics = Revolutionary.

Update [7/18/07] – I was catching up with some of RSS reads and I found this on Engaget: Microsoft shows off new Xbox 360 controller for casual gamers.  Maybe we won’t have to wait 3 years for someone to combat the Wii and begin extending the gaming community.

How to delete 80+ unread emails … without trying

June 30, 2007

I have to admit when it comes to productivity I owe a lot to Microsoft. I have been using Outlook for over 10 years now and One Note for over 4. Without these two programs I would be a mess. They help keep me organized and in touch with the people that I work with. So I am not totally complaining here just expressing some discontent with an event that took place yesterday.

I was in a rush (which is not a good time to be handling important items like e-mails) so this may have just been a lack of concentration, but I was mortified yesterday when I lost 80+ unread e-mails from my Outlook. Here is how it happened (I think):

The foldersI organize my e-mails using the folders in the top left hand corner of Outlook 2007. The folders that I use heavily are “Unread”, “Deleted”, “Inbox” and “Follow-Up (red)”. They help me keep track of the emails that I have not worked on, have been removed and those that I have said “Hey, I need to get back to this person”. While I was at the CFUnited conference this week, I went two days without answering e-mails (actually one night – Wednesday – which ended up being 2 days when you factor in that I was at a conference all day).

On Thursday before I left the conference I decided to clear out all of the junk e-mails in hopes that I would get to some of the real e-mails on my plane ride home. So I opened the “Unread” folder and on the right side started selecting the e-mail’s that I wanted to delete using the CRTL key from within the Inbox folder (Under the “unread” folder the contents are grouped by folder so that I can view all types of Unread e-mail).

However, I had the folder “inbox” selected (as you can see here)Inbox Folder

This causes some serious issues because it will bring over all of the e-mail’s in the entire folder, even if they are not selected. So, all of mye-mail’s, including the ones that I needed to read, ended up in the Deleted Items folder. No big deal at this point since I still have them. So I then proceed to highlight the e-mail’s that I wanted to keepDeleted Folder so that I could move them back into the inbox except when I moved them back in there was a weird message that appeared.

At first, I decided to say “no” – feeling that copying these images over was not a good idea maybe I had clicked something improperly. I decided to try again – again the same message. This time I decided to say “yes”. When I said “yes” all of the e-mail’s that I had copied appeared inside a new email (addressed currently to noone) as attachments.Deleted Message I said to myself – no way do I want that. I then clicked the “x” button on the e-mail message to close it. However, when I did that – all of the e-mail’s which were originally located in the deleted folder (by way of the Inbox) were all gone! Ouch!

Ever have that “click-of-death” feeling. Like that click you just executed was not a good one and the likelyhood that you would recover successfully from that click were slim to non? Yeah – that’s how I felt. Not fun.

The reason I believe that this happened? I had the “Today” folder highlighted in the Deleted Folders area (much like I had done on the Inbox to get myself into the mess in the first place). Arrrgh!!! There has to be an extra level of protection here. Now I can see why some organizations make a copy of every e-mail and forward it to a “holding” account in addition to delivering it to the appropriate box. Makes sense now!Deleted folder

Maybe as a fail safe, Outlook should integrate with your computers “Recycle Bin” so that this type of stuff won’t happen. I guess I would like a few more “Are you sure you want to delete this?” messages followed by your computer saying “Ok, this guy is an idiot, I will still save a backup even if he thinks it is a bad idea”.

What comes after “The Gradient Era”

February 22, 2007

I don’t have enough energy to do this, but it would be cool if someone could give names to each of the “Design Era’s” we have seen come to life. But here goes:

– The Bullet Era: When I first started on the web every link had a “3-d Bullet graphic” (http://web.archive.org/web/19970724115909/www.uri.edu/artsci/artsci_home.html) [note: click though on Economics]

[Somwhere along the way we graduated to the black background sites]

– Black background sites: Some of the first major designs we did were on black backgrounds (http://web.archive.org/web/19981212030944/http://www.mewstavern.com/) [note: first CF site I ever worked on – take a look at beers]

[Missing a ton of designs – for the better of man kind I moved into development at this point]

[Eventually we got to the point where we are today]

– Gradients: If you site does not use Lightbox and have Gradient headers you just ain’t cool

————————–

Well, I can honestly say that I believe that we are finally at the end of the “Gradient Era”:

Proof1: There is actually a web site that will build a gradient image for you. Yes, I did not stutter, it actually builds a gradient image: http://tools.dynamicdrive.com/gradient/. It is my recollection, that if anything ever becomes this “Mainstream” it has already met its demise. After-all, if the blinking text on my Grandma’s web page gets replaced with a gradient image then it’s all over – right?

Proof2: Two web site designs that have come out recently which don’t use any gradients. Not one.

1.) wis.dm – A social bookmarking site heavier on the “social” then the “bookmarking”
2.) mikull.com – my friends blog (yes he has some mad design skills)

So, while I can’t guarantee you won’t stumble upon a site riddled with Gradients, I can say that I am happy to ask “What is next??”.

Gotta go, off to make a few gradient images for a new menu system, I have connected Yahoo’s Menu Object into CommonSpot.